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Accused Ghosn escape plotters too much flight risk for bail: US judge

Two men alleged to have helped ex-Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn flee Japan

Former Nissan Chairman Carlos Ghosn fled Japan, where he was awaiting trial on charges of financial misconduct, to Lebanon.   © Reuters

BOSTON (Reuters) -- A U.S. judge said on Friday two Massachusetts men pose too great of a risk of flight to be released on bail given "spectacular" allegations that they helped orchestrate former Nissan Motor Co Chairman Carlos Ghosn's escape from Japan.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Donald Cabell said U.S. Army Special Forces veteran Michael Taylor and his son, Peter Taylor, had also failed to show they would likely succeed in fighting the charges underlying Japan's recent request for their extradition.

Ghosn fled to Lebanon, his childhood home, after being charged with engaging in financial wrongdoing, including by understating his compensation in Nissan's financial statements. He denies wrongdoing.

Cabell cited allegations that the elder Taylor, a private security specialist, "used his skills and experience to plan and execute a most intricate, sophisticated, and deceptive scheme" to smuggle Ghosn out of Japan in a box on Dec. 29, 2019.

He said the Taylors also appeared to have "substantial resources" they could exploit to potentially flee, including about $860,000 that Ghosn appears to have wired to a company co-managed by Peter Taylor two months before the escape.

The Taylors had argued that the charges against them were fatally flawed, as Japanese penal code does not make it a criminal offense to help someone "bail jump" or escape unless that person is in custody.

But Cabell said that argument ignored other "unambiguous" language in the penal code that allows people to face charges if they enable someone's escape, "without regard to whether the criminal was or was not in confinement."

Paul Kelly, a lawyer for the Taylors, said in a statement they did not commit an extraditable offense and "should not be held in custody during a pandemic while these issues are being litigated."

A different judge will consider further bail arguments on June 28.

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