Japan Issues Arrest Warrants for Three Men Suspected of Helping Ghosn Escape

Prosecutors: three suspected of helping Ghosn are Michael Taylor, George Zayek and Peter Taylor

TOKYO—A Japanese court on Thursday issued arrest warrants for three Americans who prosecutors said were suspected of helping former Nissan Motor Co. NSANY -0.64% Chairman Carlos Ghosn escape Japan in late December by hiding inside luggage.

Tokyo prosecutors said former Green Beret Michael Taylor, 59, and his son Peter Taylor, 26, as well as Lebanese-born U.S. citizen George Zayek, 60, were suspected of violating Japan’s immigration-control laws. The three didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

In a statement, prosecutors confirmed the widely reported outlines of Mr. Ghosn’s daring escape, saying he hid in a piece of luggage and boarded a private jet that departed Kansai International Airport in Osaka at about 11 p.m. on Dec. 29. Tokyo deputy chief prosecutor Takahiro Saito also described for the first time what he said was the central role played by the younger Mr. Taylor.

Mr. Saito said Peter Taylor came to Japan in the summer of 2019 and met Mr. Ghosn four times at the office of Mr. Ghosn’s Japanese lawyer in Tokyo. Peter Taylor and Mr. Ghosn met again on Dec. 6 and Dec. 28, the day before Mr. Ghosn’s escape, according to the prosecutor, who declined to give the location of those meetings. He said authorities believed the meetings were to plan an escape.

Mr. Saito said he believed Mr. Taylor handed Mr. Ghosn a key to a Tokyo hotel room at the Dec. 28 meeting. On the afternoon of the next day, Mr. Ghosn went to the hotel from his Tokyo house and let himself into a room reserved by Mr. Taylor, the prosecutor said. Mr. Ghosn changed his clothes at the hotel before heading to Osaka, prosecutors said.

Michael Taylor and Mr. Zayek accompanied Mr. Ghosn to the Kansai airport and onto the private jet, Mr. Saito said, confirming earlier reports in The Wall Street Journal. He didn’t say what Peter Taylor did after helping Mr. Ghosn prepare for the journey, but a Japanese magazine called Friday said an American in his 20s resembling Peter Taylor took a taxi to Tokyo’s Narita Airport from the Tokyo hotel and left the country.

At the Kansai airport, Mr. Ghosn sneaked onto the private jet by hiding inside luggage, evading the immigration officers who normally check those departing the country, and flew to Turkey en route to Lebanon, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors didn’t specify the type of luggage in which Mr. Ghosn hid, but The Wall Street Journal has reported it was a black box normally used to carry musical equipment.

Mr. Ghosn was living in Tokyo awaiting trial on financial charges before his escape. After spending 130 days in jail over two separate stints, he was freed on bail in April 2019. He was permitted to travel within Japan but was barred by the Tokyo District Court from leaving the country.

Mr. Saito, the prosecutor, said a raid Wednesday on the office of former Ghosn lawyer Junichiro Hironaka, in which prosecutors broke open drawers to view documents, was aimed at gathering evidence against Peter Taylor.

Mr. Ghosn has said he is innocent of the charges against him. Citing his lengthy detention after his arrest and Japan’s conviction rate of more than 99% for people charged with a crime, he has said he couldn’t get a fair trial in Japan and fled injustice. Another former lawyer for Mr. Ghosn, Takashi Takano, has said he understands why Mr. Ghosn chose to flee given what he described as the Japanese justice system’s bias in favor of prosecutors.

Mr. Saito said people who expressed such views were spreading lies. He said his office, which typically doesn’t announce the issuance of arrest warrants, made an exception in the case of the alleged Ghosn collaborators to make clear its view that the escape was a crime and Mr. Ghosn should have stayed in Japan to face trial.

wsj.com / balkantimes.press

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