Former Nissan chair Carlos Ghosn in Beirut, Lebanon, January 14 2020. Picture: REUTERS/MOHAMED AZAKIR
Former Nissan chair Carlos Ghosn in Beirut, Lebanon, January 14 2020. Picture: REUTERS/MOHAMED AZAKIR

New York/Southfield — Two men charged in Japan with aiding the escape of Carlos Ghosn were arrested in Massachusetts, 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 on Wednesday afternoon, according to court records. Ghosn, the former Nissan Motor chair, 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 on Wednesday.

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 helping 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, then to the airport and onto the aeroplane using various methods to prevent him from being detected, Japanese prosecutors said in a January statement.

The escape Michael Taylor, a former Green Beret, and his son allegedly helped plot started from a Tokyo hotel then a bullet train to Osaka, where whey boarded a private jet bound for Turkey. 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 meet-ups, bullet train travel, fake personas, and the chartering of a private jet.”

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

Zayek’s whereabouts are not  known. Christina Sterling, a spokesperson for the Massachusetts US attorney’s office, declined to 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 learnt that Peter had booked a flight from Boston to Beirut, the city where Ghosn had fled, on Wednesday 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 US prosecutors.

Ghosn, who was chair and CEO of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi carmaker alliance, was arrested in November 2018, accused of underreporting 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.