Ghosn’s suspected escape accomplices arrested in Boston

Carlos Ghosn and his wife Carole (left) arrive for a news conference in Beirut on Jan. 8.

A former Green Beret soldier and his son, charged in Japan with aiding the escape of Carlos Ghosn, were arrested in Massachusetts today [Macau time] and are being held for possible extradition.

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

Prosecutors said Peter Taylor had plans to fly from Boston to Beirut on Wednesday. The two were arrested in Harvard, Massachusetts, about 25 miles outside Boston.

The arrests come a week before the expected announcement of a major restructuring plan at Nissan, the latest effort to turn around the fortunes of the automaker that has seen its finances weaken and management in turmoil following Ghosn’s arrest and ouster.

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 U.S. 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 Japanese Embassy in Washington had no immediate comment on the arrests.

The court filings Wednesday were first posted on Twitter by Seamus Hughes, deputy director of Georgetown University’s Program on Extremism.

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 plot allegedly hatched by Michael Taylor, 59, and his son 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.
‘Brazen’ Escape
“Michel Taylor is not just capable of fleeing while on bond — he is an expert in the subject,” the U.S. 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.”

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

The filings shed much more light on the details of Ghosn’s escape and the intricate planning leading up to it. They also show that Peter Taylor, 27, allegedly played a much larger role than previously known. He is said to have traveled to Japan at least three times, starting in July 2019, and met with Ghosn at least seven times during those trips.

Peter Taylor allegedly rented the room at a luxury hotel in Tokyo, where he handed Ghosn a room key on Dec. 28, and, as revealed by video surveillance cameras, stored luggage for Ghosn’s change of clothes a day later. After being joined in the hotel room by his father and Zayek on Dec. 29, Peter then departed for Tokyo’s Narita airport and took a flight to China, court filings show.
Black Box
Later that day, Michael Taylor, Zayek and Ghosn took a bullet train to Osaka and entered a hotel where Taylor and Zayek had rented a room after arriving earlier via private jet from Dubai. About two hours later, Taylor and Zayek left the hotel with luggage, including two large black boxes, and headed to the Osaka airport.

There were no recorded images of Ghosn leaving the hotel room, according to the court filing. Ghosn allegedly was hiding in one of the boxes, which looked like the type that carry musical instruments and weren’t screened before being loaded onto the jet. The plane took off from Japan at 11:10 p.m. — about 13 hours after it had arrived.

Ghosn, who was chairman 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.
Former Paratrooper
Taylor, once worked undercover for U.S. law enforcement after starting his career as a Special Forces paratrooper. He later built a Boston-area security firm, known as American International Security Corp., with contracts for work around the world. He was once hired by the New York Times to help extract a reporter being held hostage in Afghanistan.

An Arabic speaker, Michael Taylor’s first trip to Beirut was nearly four decades ago when he helped train Lebanese combat forces in the early 1980s, according to unrelated court filings from a federal court case in Utah. Ten years later he worked as an undercover operative in Lebanon for a U.S. probe of drug trafficking and money laundering, the filings said.

Zayek was associated with Taylor’s security firm, but less is known about him. He is part of a family of Lebanese Maronite Christians, a group that Taylor worked closely with in Lebanon.

The cases are U.S. v. Michael L. Taylor, 20-mj-01069; U.S. v. Peter Maxwell Taylor, 20-mj-01070, U.S. District Court, District of Massachusetts (Worcester).

By Bob Van Voris and Chester Dawson, Bloomberg
Categories Asia-Pacific Breaking News Business