US authorities have arrested a former special forces soldier and his son in Massachusetts for allegedly helping ex-Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn flee Japan last December.
Former US Green Beret Michael Taylor, 59, and his son, Peter Taylor, 27, are accused by Japanese authorities of helping Mr Ghosn last year flee to Lebanon to avoid trial over alleged financial wrongdoing.
The US 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 December 29, 2019 escape.
Mr Ghosn managed to flee the country despite being monitored 24 hours a day.
Mr 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.
Japan is closely communicating with relevant US authorities following the arrests, a Japanese government source said on Thursday (local time).
Prosecutors said Peter Taylor travelled to Japan the day before Mr Ghosn’s escape and Michael Taylor and Mr Zayek arrived the day it occurred with large black boxes that appeared to be for music equipment.
All three met with Mr 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.
Mr Ghosn two days later announced he was in Lebanon.
The Taylors were arrested after US law enforcement learned Peter Taylor had booked a flight from Boston to Beirut departing on Wednesday with a layover in London, according to court papers.
Following their arrest, the Taylors appeared by 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 US prosecutors, who say they pose a risk of flight after aiding Ghosn’s “brazen” escape. Assistant US 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.
Japanese lawyer Junichiro Hironaka, who had defended Mr Ghosn until his flight from the country, said in a telephone interview he would watch developments closely.
This month, Turkish prosecutors prepared an indictment charging seven people, including four pilots, over Mr Ghosn’s escape via Istanbul to Beirut.
Nissan said in an emailed statement it notes the extradition proceedings and reserves the right to take further legal measures against Mr Ghosn.