A US judge has authorized the extradition of two Americans accused of helping ex-Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn escape from Japan to Lebanon via İstanbul in December, while a Turkish court released five suspects from jail.
US Judge Donald Cabell in Boston ruled on September 4 that US citizens Michael Taylor and his son Peter can be legally extradited to Japan to face criminal charges for their alleged role in assisting Ghosn for the escape operation, Bloomberg reported. The final decision to extradite rests with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
In July a Turkish court ordered the release of five former employees of Turkish private jet services company MNG who were charged with “illegally smuggling a migrant” and faced up to eight years in prison. The indictment by the prosecutor stated that MNG Jet’s operations director, Okan Kösemen, received several payments in his bank account totaling over 250,000 euros to ensure Ghosn was able to transit Istanbul.
According to the US court’s ruling, Japan satisfied the requirements outlined in its extradition treaty with the US. US citizens Taylor and his son Peter Taylor were arrested in May at Japan’s request after being accused of smuggling Ghosn out of Japan in a box on a private jet so he could escape to Lebanon.
According to documents filed by US prosecutors, Ghosn’s son sent around $1.3 million in cryptocurrency to Michael Taylor as payment for aiding in Ghosn’s escape. They have been held without bail since their arrest in May.
Cabell wrote in his ruling that “the court finds that the charges for which extradition is sought are crimes pursuant to both Japanese and United States law and covered by the treaty,” adding that “they [US citizens] harbored or enabled the escape of Carlos Ghosn,” Bloomberg reported.
The İstanbul Bakırköy 17th Penal Court of Peace had previously accepted the indictment naming Kösemen, four pilots and two flight attendants for their alleged roles in Ghosn’s escape. Two ground services employees, identified only by the initials F.K. and İ.M.H., were released after a brief detention in January 2020 and spared from any accusations in the indictment for their alleged role in the escape.
The Turkish prosecutor had sought up to eight years in prison for each of the four pilots and Kösemen. The court, however, ordered the release of Kösemen and the four pilots on July 3.
The indictment had stated that Ghosn is believed to have been smuggled inside a musical instrument box large enough to carry a person 1.7 meters tall. According to the indictment Kösemen played a significant role by using two MNG planes illegally for the smuggling operation. It notes a €216,000 and $66,000 increase in Kösemen’s bank accounts between October 16 and December 26, 2019, and that he accompanied Ghosn during the İstanbul-Beirut flight.
Turkish police detained the suspects on January 2, 2020. A government official said at the time that Turkey was not notified about Ghosn’s arrival nor his departure from the country. MNG Jet, owned by MNG Holding, had two of its aircraft used illegally, and it filed a criminal complaint against its own employees over the illegal use of its jet charter services.
Ghosn was arrested by Japanese authorities in November 2018 on charges of financial misconduct. Japanese prosecutors believe he funneled millions of dollars from his former company for his own personal use and deceived shareholders about the size of his salary. Ghosn had been kept under close police surveillance in Japan since being released on more than €8 million bail in April 2019.
Ghosn has denied the allegations and said he fled because he could not expect a fair trial was subjected to unfair conditions in detention and was barred from meeting with his wife under his bail conditions.