Two suspects arrested for helping ex-Nissan head Carlos Ghosn flee Japan

Two men charged in Japan with aiding the escape of Carlos Ghosn were arrested in Massachusetts in the US on Wednesday morning and are being held for possible extradition.

Michael L. Taylor and his son, Peter Maxwell Taylor, are scheduled to appear by video in Massachusetts federal court Wednesday afternoon, according to court records. Ghosn, the ex-Nissan chairperson, jumped bail and fled Japan in 2019 to escape trial for alleged financial crimes.

Prosecutors said Peter had plans to fly from Boston to Beirut today.

Ghosn fled in December in a spectacular escape aboard a charter jet bound for Turkey en route to Lebanon, where he holds citizenship. Later lashing out at Japan’s prosecutors for what he called a “rigged” criminal justice system, he has maintained his innocence and defended his decision to flee Japan, saying that he couldn’t get a fair trial in the country.

Japan, which has rejected Ghosn’s criticism of its justice system, responded by issuing arrest warrants for the former executive and others suspected of aiding him. The detention of the two men by federal officials in the US is likely to be warmly welcomed by Tokyo, though Japan has so far been unsuccessful in efforts to secure Ghosn’s return due to the lack of an extradition treaty with Lebanon.

The Taylors and another man, George-Antoine Zayek, are suspected of helping Ghosn make his way to a Tokyo hotel, and then to the airport and onto the plane using various methods to prevent him from being detected, Japanese prosecutors said in a January statement.

The escape

Michael Taylor, 59, a former Green Beret, and his son allegedly helped plot started from a Tokyo hotel and then a bullet train to Osaka, where whey boarded a private plane bound for Turkey. In order to avoid detection, Ghosn was smuggled onto the aircraft in a large musical instrument case, according to court filings.

Calling each of the Taylors an “exceptionally high flight risk,” prosecutors are asking they both be held without bail.

“Peter Taylor is not just capable of fleeing while on bond - he is an expert in the subject,” the US said in a court filing. “The plot to spirit Ghosn out of Japan was one of the most brazen and well-orchestrated escape acts in recent history, involving a dizzying array of hotel meetups, bullet train travel, fake personas, and the chartering of a private jet.”

The government claims Michael Taylor is the founder of American International Security Corporation and that he has “facilitated the extractions of other individuals.”

Zayek’s whereabouts weren’t immediately known. Christina Sterling, a spokeswoman for the Massachusetts US Attorney’s Office, declined comment on Zayek.

According to prosecutors, Michael flew from Dubai to Boston on February 16. Peter made the same trip on March 22. They subsequently learned that Peter had booked a flight from Boston to Beirut, the city where Ghosn had fled, today with a stopover in London.

Warrants for the arrests of both men were issued by a Tokyo court on January 30 and renewed the next month, according to U.S. prosecutors.

Ghosn, who was chairperdon and chief executive officer of the Renault–Nissan–Mitsubishi automaker alliance, was arrested in November 2018, accused of under-reporting income and misusing company funds. He had been under house arrest as he awaited trial. Ghosn has called his prosecution part of a plot to limit the integration of Nissan and Renault.

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