Two alleged Ghosn accomplices arrested in US

Joseph Prezioso and Charlotte Plantive, Agence France-Presse

Posted at May 21 2020 02:32 AM

A father and son suspected of helping fugitive former Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn flee Japan in December were arrested Wednesday in the United States, justice officials and court documents said.

Michael Taylor, 59, a former US special forces member turned security contractor, and his son Peter Taylor, 27, were named in a Japanese arrest warrant seeking their extradition.

They have been ordered to appear by videoconference at 1930 GMT Wednesday before a US federal judge in Massachusetts, according to the court filing.

The two pose a flight risk and must remain in detention as the United States awaits a formal extradition request from Japan, prosecutors said in a filing with the US District Court in Massachusetts.

"Peter Taylor is an exceptionally high flight risk and that fact alone requires his detention," US attorneys wrote.

The Taylors were arrested early Wednesday in Harvard, Massachusetts, a Department of Justice official told AFP.

The younger Taylor was preparing to travel to Lebanon, where Ghosn fled after sneaking out of Japan.

The United States and Japan have an extradition treaty, but Lebanon and Japan do not.

The Taylors and a Lebanese man named George-Antoine Zayek are accused by Japan of helping Ghosn flee the island nation on December 29. Ghosn was out on bail awaiting trial for alleged financial crimes when he made the audacious escape.

Between July and December 2019, Peter Taylor made multiple trips to Japan and "met with Ghosn at least seven times," prosecutors said in the filings.

According to the court documents, the Taylors and Zayek helped the auto boss hide inside a large black case of the kind used to transport audio equipment for music, which they then loaded onto a private jet.

At the time, luggage being put on such an aircraft did not need to be checked.

According to the court filings, Michael Taylor and Zayek posed as musicians. They travelled with Ghosn by high-speed train from Tokyo to Osaka, where they entered room 4609 of a hotel near the Kansai International Airport. 

'Brazen' escape

The cases which Ghosn allegedly used in his Houdini-like escape were brought into the room earlier in the day by Taylor and Zayek.

"There is no image of Ghosn leaving room 4609," the court filings say, citing security camera evidence.

"Instead, Ghosn was hiding in one of the two large black boxes being carried by Michael Taylor and Zayek."

The two men boarded a private jet with the large cases and departed for Turkey later that night, the court documents say. 

"Two days later, on December 31, 2019, Ghosn made a public announcement that he was in Lebanon," the prosecutors added.

Japanese authorities said early this year that there is no record of Ghosn departing the country.

The court filings portrayed the escape as similar to scenes from a movie thriller. 

"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 prosecutors wrote.

In February Nissan filed a civil lawsuit to reclaim some 10 billion yen ($90 million) from Ghosn for what it called "years of his misconduct and fraudulent activity."