US veteran, son sought over ex-Nissan boss escape

AFP
Japanese prosecutors said yesterday they would seek the extradition of a former US special forces soldier and his son accused of helping fugitive Carlos Ghosn flee Japan.
AFP

Japanese prosecutors said yesterday they would seek the extradition of a former US special forces soldier and his son accused of helping fugitive former Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn flee Japan.

Michael Taylor and his son Peter were detained on Wednesday in Massachusetts accused of involvement in what prosecutors called “one of the most brazen and well-orchestrated escape acts in recent history.”

Ghosn was out on bail in Tokyo awaiting trial on multiple charges of financial misconduct — which he denies — when he fled the country.

He said after his arrival in Lebanon that he had been forced to escape because he feared he would not get a fair hearing.

Lebanon does not have an extradition treaty with Japan, and has so far resisted requests for Ghosn’s return, but the United States and Japan do have an agreement.

In Tokyo, prosecutors confirmed they would be asking for both Taylors to be brought to Japan. “We are making preparations so we can swiftly request their extradition,” Takahiro Saito, deputy chief of the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office, said in a statement.

The pair were arrested after being named in a Japanese arrest warrant, and prosecutors argued for their continued detention, warning they posed a significant flight risk.

A judge granted the request, and the pair will be held as Japan prepares its extradition request.

In court documents, prosecutors recounted details of Ghosn’s escape, allegedly aided by the Taylors and a Lebanese man, George-Antoine Zayek.

Ghosn had been living in a court-appointed apartment in Tokyo under the terms of his bail, but he was able to move around Japan freely and was given access to one of his passports as the country requires foreigners to carry proof of identification.

According to prosecutors, Peter Taylor met with Ghosn at least seven times in Japan between July and December 2019.

Reports have suggested he and his alleged accomplices carried out extensive research on possible escape routes for Ghosn, eventually settling on Kansai airport near Osaka, where security for cargo was considered weaker.

Michael Taylor and Zayek then entered the country posing as musicians, and on December 29 traveled with Ghosn from Tokyo to Osaka where the three men entered a hotel room near the airport, court documents said. But only Taylor and Zayek were seen leaving, because Ghosn was taken out in instrument cases brought into the hotel room a day earlier.

The cases were allegedly used because large cargo loaded onto private jets at Kansai airport was not routinely scanned, meaning Ghosn could be wheeled onto a plane without detection.

Taylor and Zayek boarded a private plane with the instrument cases bound for Istanbul, where Ghosn then switched to another plane heading to Beirut.

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