National / Crime & Legal

Two men who allegedly helped Carlos Ghosn flee Japan arrested in U.S.

REUTERS

U.S. authorities on Wednesday arrested a former U.S. Army Special Forces soldier and another man in Massachusetts wanted by Japan on charges that they enabled the escape of former Nissan Motor Co boss Carlos Ghosn out of the country.

Former U.S. Green Beret Michael Taylor, 59, and his son, Peter Taylor, 27, are accused by Japanese authorities of helping Ghosn last year flee to Lebanon to avoid trial over alleged financial wrongdoing.

The U.S. Marshals Service arrested them in Harvard, Massachusetts, at the request of Japan, which in January issued arrest warrants for both men along with a third, George-Antoine Zayek, in connection with facilitating the Dec. 29, 2019 escape.

Ghosn, who was out on bail at the time, fled to Lebanon, his childhood home, while he was awaiting trial on charges of under-reporting earnings, breach of trust and misappropriation of company funds, all of which he denies.

Prosecutors said Peter Taylor traveled to Japan the day before Ghosn’s escape and Michael Taylor and Zayek arrived the day it occurred with large black boxes that appeared to be for music equipment.

All three met with Ghosn, who after entering a hotel room with Michael Taylor and Zayek hid in one of the boxes, which was taken to an airport and loaded on a private jet headed for Turkey, prosecutors said.

Ghosn two days later announced he was in Lebanon.

The Taylors were arrested after U.S. law enforcement learned Peter Taylor had booked a flight from Boston to Beirut departing Wednesday with a layover in London, according to court papers.

Following their arrest, the Taylors appeared via video before a federal judge wearing orange prison jumpsuits and face masks because of the coronavirus pandemic. They are being detained at the request of U.S. prosecutors, who say they pose a risk of flight after aiding Ghosn’s “brazen” escape. Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Hassink said Japan plans to formally seek their extradition as quickly as possible.

Paul Kelly, their lawyer, in a statement said he expects to challenge any extradition request.

“Michael Taylor is a distinguished veteran and patriot, and both and he and his son deserve a full and fair hearing regarding these issues, both before the courts and the executive branch,” he said.

A representative for Ghosn declined to comment.

This month, Turkish prosecutors prepared an indictment charging seven people, including four pilots, over Ghosn’s escape via Istanbul to Beirut.

In September, Nissan and Ghosn settled civil charges by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission related to what it said were false financial disclosures by the company that omitted more than $140 million (¥15 billion) to be paid to Ghosn in retirement.

That sum ultimately was not paid. Nissan paid $15 million and Ghosn $1 million, and Ghosn agreed to a 10-year ban from serving as an officer or director of a publicly traded U.S. company.

The SEC also said Ghosn engaged in a scheme to conceal more than $90 million of compensation. Nissan sued Ghosn in February seeking about $90 million.

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