Two men suspected of helping the former Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn flee Japan, where he was facing financial charges, were arrested in Massachusetts on Wednesday morning, U.S. authorities said.
Michael Taylor, a former Green Beret, and his son Peter Maxwell Taylor are believed by Japanese authorities to have helped plan and carry out Mr. Ghosn’s flight to Lebanon from Tokyo in December.
The two executed “one of the most brazen and well-orchestrated escape acts in recent history,” Stephen W. Hassink, an assistant U.S. attorney, said in a filing arguing that the two should be held without bail.
The U.S. District Court in Massachusetts issued a warrant for the arrests on May 6, after a request from Japanese prosecutors. Japanese authorities have told their U.S. counterparts that they will seek to extradite the Taylors to face trial in Japan, the U.S. attorney’s office said.
A Boston-based lawyer for Michael and Peter Taylor, Paul Kelly, declined to comment. The Taylors did not respond to requests for comment.
Mr. Ghosn’s disappearance from Japan, and his announcement two days later that he was in his home country of Lebanon, shocked Japanese legal authorities and set off waves of speculation on how he had made the escape. Mr. Ghosn, who continues to live in Lebanon and would face arrest if he ever left, has never explained how he did it.
U.S. officials moved to capture the Taylors after learning that Peter Taylor, 27, was preparing to fly from Boston to Beirut, Lebanon, a court filing said.
According to the timeline provided by the U.S. attorney’s office, Peter Taylor traveled to Japan three times in 2019 and met with Mr. Ghosn in Tokyo on at least seven occasions, including an hourlong meeting the day before the escape.
Shortly after the last meeting, Mr. Ghosn left his home in an upscale Tokyo neighborhood and walked to a hotel, where he met Michael Taylor and George Antoine Zayek, a veteran of the Lebanese civil war.
The two men and Mr. Ghosn then boarded a bullet train to Osaka, where they entered a hotel room where Michael Taylor and Mr. Zayek had brought two large boxes “that looked like they were for audio equipment,” the U.S. attorney’s office filing said. Mr. Ghosn hid in one of the boxes, and two men smuggled the luggage through security at a private jet terminal and onto a plane bound for Turkey, the documents said. From Turkey, Mr. Ghosn boarded another plane to Lebanon, according to media reports and a person familiar with the details of the escape.
The U.S. attorney’s office has asked the court to detain the Taylors until they can be turned over to Japanese custody, saying they pose “an enormous risk for flight.”
“The very offense for which Michael Taylor is charged in Japan demonstrates his aptitude for hatching escape plans on a grand scale,” the U.S. authorities wrote. “Michael Taylor is not just capable of fleeing while on bond — he is an expert in the subject.”
The Taylors made an initial court appearance via Zoom on Wednesday afternoon from Norfolk County, Mass., where they are being held. They sat next to each other, wearing bright orange uniforms and beige masks. For much of the proceeding, Michael Taylor kept his arms folded, while Peter Taylor sat with his hands clasped in his lap.
Mr. Ghosn is beyond the reach of Japanese authorities while he is in Lebanon because the two countries do not have an extradition treaty. Mr. Ghosn is a Lebanese national, and the country does not extradite its citizens.
But the Taylors could very well end up in Tokyo, because the United States and Japan do have an extradition treaty. After a hearing, the final decision about whether to give the men up is, under law, to be made by the secretary of state after a formal request from the Japanese government.
Michael Taylor, 59, was introduced to Mr. Ghosn by Lebanese intermediaries, The New York Times reported in January. He speaks Arabic and has extensive contacts in Lebanon from his time in Beirut during a U.S. Special Forces deployment.
Mr. Ghosn’s escape from Japan was the result of a vast international planning process in which a team of at least 15 operatives from around the world worked for months scoping out airports and other possible exit routes through Indonesia, the Philippines, South Korea, Taiwan and Thailand, The Times reported in January.
Michael Taylor, who works as a security consultant, had arranged overseas rescue missions in the past. The Times once hired him to help with the rescue of the reporter David Rohde, who had been kidnapped by the Taliban. Mr. Rohde managed to escape on his own in June 2009.
Mr. Taylor was indicted in 2012 for his role in a plan to obstruct a federal fraud investigation into bid-rigging of Defense Department contracts. He served time in prison after pleading guilty to wire fraud, but the government returned $2 million that had been taken from him, as well as two Land Rovers, according to court records.
After Mr. Ghosn’s escape, Japanese authorities also issued an arrest warrant for his wife, Carole Ghosn, who is a citizen of the United States and Lebanon. Prosecutors have accused her of providing false testimony about her husband’s case.
The couple live in Lebanon, which Mr. Ghosn has used as a base for waging a media campaign to defend himself.
Mr. Ghosn had been a globe-trotting auto executive, overseeing an alliance of Renault, Nissan and Mitsubishi, when he was arrested in Japan on November 2018.
Japanese prosecutors charged him with four counts of financial wrongdoing, including hiding the full extent of his compensation from regulators and using Nissan’s resources for his own benefit.
He strongly denies all of the charges, saying that his arrest was the result of a coup orchestrated by officials at Nissan, and that he fled Japan because he had no chance of receiving a fair trial.