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Japan Seeks Extradition of Ghosn Accomplices Held in US

Japan Seeks Extradition of Ghosn Accomplices Held in US

Thursday, 21 May, 2020 - 10:30
FILE PHOTO: Former Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn talks during an interview with Reuters in Beirut, Lebanon January 14, 2020. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir/File Photo
Asharq Al-Awsat

Japanese prosecutors said Thursday they would seek the extradition of a former special forces soldier and his son, who have been arrested in the US on suspicion of helping fugitive former Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn flee Japan in December.

Michael Taylor, 59, and his son, 27, were detained Wednesday in Massachusetts on suspicion of involvement in what prosecutors called "one of the most brazen and well-orchestrated escape acts in recent history".

The plot to spirit Ghosn away involved "a dizzying array of hotel meet-ups, bullet train travel, fake personas and the chartering of a private jet", prosecutors wrote in court documents.

They said Peter Taylor had been preparing to travel to Lebanon, where Ghosn fled after sneaking out of Japan last December, allegedly inside a musical instrument case.

Ghosn was out on bail in Tokyo awaiting trial on multiple charges of financial misconduct -- which he denies -- when he fled the country.

He said after his arrival in Lebanon that he had been forced to escape because he feared he would not get a fair hearing.

Lebanon does not have an extradition treaty with Japan, and has so far resisted requests for Ghosn's return to Tokyo, but the United States and Japan do have an agreement.

In Tokyo, prosecutors confirmed they would be asking for both Taylors to be brought to Japan.

"We are making preparations so we can swiftly request their extradition," Takahiro Saito, deputy chief of the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office, said in a statement.

In court documents, prosecutors recounted details of Ghosn's stunning escape, allegedly aided by the Taylors and a Lebanese man named George-Antoine Zayek.

Ghosn had been living in a court-appointed apartment in Tokyo under the strict terms of his release on bail, which also prevented him from using the internet unsupervised or meeting his wife, Carole.

But despite the restrictions, he was able to move around Japan freely, and was given access to one of his passports as the country requires foreigners to carry proof of identification at all times.

According to prosecutors, Peter Taylor met with Ghosn at least seven times in Japan between July and December 2019.

Reports have suggested he and his alleged accomplices carried out extensive research on possible escape routes for Ghosn, eventually settling on Kansai airport near Osaka, where security for cargo was considered weaker.

Michael Taylor and Zayek then entered the country posing as musicians, and on December 29 travelled with Ghosn from Tokyo to Osaka where the three men entered a hotel room near the airport, court documents said.

But only Taylor and Zayek were seen leaving, because Ghosn was taken out in instrument cases brought into the hotel room a day earlier.

Taylor and Zayek boarded a private plane with the instrument cases bound for Istanbul, where Ghosn then switched to another plane heading to Beirut.

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