Father and son plead guilty to helping Carlos Ghosn escape Japan
Yesterday, two men with ties to Massachusetts, Michael and Peter Taylor, pleaded guilty in Tokyo to helping former Nissan executive Carlos Ghosn flee Japan and escape a string of charges related to financial irregularities . GBH legal analyst and North East law professor Daniel Medwed joined Aaron Schachter on Morning edition today to provide the legal background to the case and discuss the way forward. This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Aaron Schachter: Now that’s quite a story, right? The whole affair reads like the figment of a screenwriter’s imagination. A special forces agent and his son hide Ghosn in a box in Japan and Tokyo and take him out of the country in a private plane. But while Ghosn is free in Lebanon, the Taylors have been transported to Japan to face the music. How did it happen?
Daniel Medwed: It’s a twist in the writer’s plot that probably doesn’t help the Taylors much. This is how it happened: It concerns the operation of extradition treaties. When countries are engaged in bilateral negotiations, they often include an extradition provision that sets out the circumstances under which a country can return a citizen of another country to court to face criminal charges. Lebanon and Japan do not have an extradition treaty, and that is why Ghosn cannot be touched by the Japanese authorities. And in fact, that is why it was secreted in Lebanon in the box.
However, the United States and Japan have an extradition treaty. It’s not unlimited, however. And for many months, while the Taylors were here in Massachusetts, they fought the extradition order from Japan. Their claim was that the particular criminal charge they are reviewing – essentially the Japanese equivalent of bail, helping someone escape and not appearing in court – was not covered by the treaty. extradition. They lost this battle, which is why they are in their current situation.
Schachter: So this whole extradition thing is kind of like the Julian Assange case, isn’t it? When he was locked up in the Ecuadorian embassy for seven years?
Medwed: It’s exactly that. Julian Assange, the reason he was at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London all this time is that Ecuador and the United States did not have an extradition treaty. But he knew full well that if he set foot outside that embassy, he could be picked up by British authorities and sent back to the United States. But because, of course, there is a long-standing extradition agreement between the UK and the US, and in fact in 2019 when Assange walked out of that embassy and was on the job. point of facing the music of the WikiLeaks scandal, he was transported by the British authorities and he remains incarcerated there while he fights against extradition to the United States
WATCH: Daniel Medwed pleads guilty in Japan
Schachter: How do guilty pleas work in Japan, Daniel? Was it a good idea for them to make this plea?
Medwed: This is a really interesting point. I think it was probably a good idea to do this plea because in Japan the conviction rate is over 99%. Japan has what is called an inquisitorial or civil law system where the judge and the prosecutor have full weight. And the defense attorney, frankly, is a bit of an afterthought. In Japan, you plead guilty. This does not solve the case. It just means that you are facing a sentencing trial where the judge decides what you should get. So the reason you plead guilty in Japan is because you know you’re going down anyway – a conviction rate of over 99% – so why not ask the judge for favors in the hope that you will get some of mercy on the day of conviction?
Schachter: It seems a little strange that you can have a conviction rate of almost 100%, that so many people are guilty.
Medwed: Two or three different reasons: The first is that unlike in the United States, you do not have a solid right to a lawyer during police questioning in Japan. You can be detained in Japan for days without a lawyer. In fact, you can be detained for about 23 days without being charged with a crime at all. Second, from a cultural perspective, prosecutors do not take cases to court unless there is compelling evidence of guilt. They will drop the case instead of potentially losing face by not getting a conviction at trial.
Schachter: Do we know how long the Taylors stay in jail?
Medwed: Yes, the maximum sentence, I believe, is three years.
Schachter: So things are not looking good for the Taylors.