Autos

U.S. officials arrest two Americans wanted by Japan for helping ex-Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn escape

Key Points
  • Federal officials said that they have arrested two men, including a former U.S. special forces soldier, wanted by Japan for their alleged involvement in helping former Nissan Motor boss Carlos Ghosn escape that country in December.
  • The U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Massachusetts said that Michael Taylor, 59, and 27-year-old Peter Taylor were arrested in the state in response to a request for purposes of extradition submitted to the U.S. by Japan.
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Americans arrested for extradition purposes in Carlos Ghosn case

U.S. law enforcement authorities on Wednesday arrested two American men, including a former special forces soldier, wanted by Japan for their alleged involvement in helping former Nissan Motor boss Carlos Ghosn escape that country in December.

The U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Massachusetts said that Michael Taylor, 59, and his 27-year-old son Peter Taylor, were taken into custody in that state in response to a request for purposes of extradition submitted to the U.S. by Japan. Michael Taylor is a former Green Beret in the U.S. Army.

Both men appeared by videoconference in orange jail uniforms and face masks for an initial appearance Wednesday afternoon. They primarily sat silent during the less-than-20-minute hearing other than thanking the judge.

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Who is Carlos Ghosn?

U.S. District Judge Donald L. Cabell during the hearing said Japan has not yet formally submitted a request for extradition. U.S. prosecutor Stephen Hassink said Japanese officials plan to submit that request within a required 45-day period.

"A lot of this is kind of hurry up and wait," Cabell said, citing additional information from Japan as well as motions regarding bail and detention. He said as those actions occur, the court "will schedule things as soon as possible."

Japanese officials issued arrest warrants in January for both men as well as a third, George-Antoine Zayek, in connection with the escape on Dec. 29, 2019. 

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Escaping Japan

U.S. prosecutors said the government of Japan charged Michael and Peter Taylor with helping Ghosn flee. The former chairman and CEO of Nissan "was indicted in Japan for financial crimes and had been released on bail pending his trial," U.S. prosecutors said.

Attorney Paul V. Kelly, who's representing the Taylors, declined to comment.

News of the arrests was first reported by Seamus Hughes, a George Washington University professor, who discovered documents related to the busts.

Court records detail the elaborate escape through hotel reservations, surveillance videos and travel records, among other documents.

According to the complaint, Peter Taylor visited Japan at least three times leading up to Ghosn's escape, starting in July 2019. He allegedly visited with Ghosn at least seven times during those visits, according to meeting records the former auto tycoon was required to maintain as a condition of his bail.

Peter Taylor, according to the documents, arrived in Japan and met with Ghosn a day before the escape, followed by Michael Taylor and Zayek, who both entered the country on Dec. 29 from Dubai on a private jet. The two allegedly claimed they were musicians and entered Japan transporting two large black boxes, as shown in video surveillance images.

Photo provided by Istanbul Police Department shows the case which former chairman of Nissan, Carlos Ghosn hid in while fleeing from Japan , where he was held in house arrest, to Lebanon in Istanbul, Turkey on January 08, 2020.
Istanbul Police Department | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

The four men allegedly met at the Grand Hyatt hotel in Tokyo, followed by Michael Taylor and Zayek escorting Ghosn via taxi and train hours away to another Hyatt hotel near Kansai International Airport, where the two had flown into earlier in the day.

Video surveillance, according to the documents, show the men entering a hotel room at 8:14 p.m. Michael Taylor and Zayek allegedly left the same room just before 10 p.m. with the two large boxes, one of which officials say Ghosn was hiding in, according to the documents.

Upon arriving to the airport at 10:20 p.m., the baggage passed through security and was loaded on the private jet without being checked. The plane, according to the documents, departed for Turkey at about 11:10 p.m.

Two days later, Ghosn made a public announcement that he had fled to Lebanon.

— CNBC's Jim Forkin contributed to this report.