U.S. arrests 2 men wanted by Japan for Carlos Ghosn escape

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BOSTON —  U.S. authorities on Wednesday arrested a former special forces soldier and another man wanted by Japan on charges that they enabled the escape of former Nissan Motor Co. boss Carlos Ghosn out of the country.

Federal prosecutors in Massachusetts said former Green Beret Michael Taylor, 59, and his son, Peter Taylor, 27, helped Ghosn last year flee to Lebanon to avoid trial in Japan over alleged financial wrongdoing.

Japan in January issued arrest warrants for both men along with a third, George-Antoine Zayek, in connection with facilitating the escape on Dec. 29, 2019. The Taylors are scheduled to appear by video conference before a federal judge later on Wednesday.

A lawyer for both Taylors did not immediately comment.

Ghosn 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.

U.S. legal papers recount the details of Ghosn’s escape including his departure from Japan hidden in a large black box aboard a private jet.

The Japanese embassy in Washington and Nissan did not immediately comment. A representative for Ghosn declined to comment.

Federal prosecutors asked the judge to order both men detained.

“Peter 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 meetups, bullet train travel, fake personas, and the chartering of a private jet.”

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

U.S. law enforcement learned Peter Taylor had booked a flight from Boston to Beirut departing Wednesday with a layover in London. He was arrested as was Michael Taylor in Harvard, Mass.

In September, Nissan and Ghosn settled U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission claims over false financial disclosures related to Ghosn’s compensation.

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

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

According to prosecutors, Michael flew from Dubai to Boston on Feb. 16. Peter made the same trip on March 22.

Warrants for the arrests of both men were issued by a Tokyo court on Jan. 30 and renewed the next month, according to U.S. prosecutors.

Ghosn, who was chairman and CEO 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.

The SEC said in total Nissan in its financial disclosures omitted more than $140 million to be paid to Ghosn in retirement — a sum that ultimately was not paid. Nissan paid $15 million and Ghosn $1 million to resolve the investigation. Ghosn also 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.

The SEC said beginning in 2004 Nissan’s board delegated to Ghosn the authority to set individual director and executive compensation levels, including his own. “Ghosn and his subordinates, including (Nissan executive Greg) Kelly, crafted various ways to structure payment of the undisclosed compensation after Ghosn’s retirement,” the agency added.

Bloomberg contributed to this report.

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Saurabh Shukla

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