TOKYO: Japanese prosecutors are launching a full-fledged investigation into former Nissan Motor Co. Chairman Carlos Ghosn’s escape from Japan to Lebanon while on bail, following the arrest of suspected accomplices on Tuesday.
Much about the escape drama remains a mystery, with Ghosn himself keeping silent on the details about it and there being no prospect that he will be deported to Japan.
Two American men–Michael Taylor, a 60-year-old former Green Beret, and his son, Peter, 28–were arrested by the special investigation squad of the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office for allegedly helping Ghosn, 66, flee to Lebanon from Japan in late 2019 while he was on bail awaiting his trial in Japan over his alleged financial misconduct. The two were extradited to Japan from U.S. custody on Tuesday.
In January last year, the special squad obtained arrest warrants for the Taylors and George Zayek, a 61-year-old U.S. national, who is also suspected of helping Ghosn’s escape. But Zayek’s whereabouts is unknown.
A court in Istanbul, Turkey, recently found a former senior official of a private jet operator and two pilots guilty for helping Ghosn’s illegal departure from Japan. Ghosn is believed to have used a private jet to leave Japan for Lebanon via Turkey.
During the trial, the former official of the private jet operator testified that a Lebanese entrepreneur played a role in Ghosn’s escape. But the entrepreneur lives in Lebanon and is therefore seen to be out of reach of Japanese investigators.
Prosecutors are also looking into the possible involvement of Ghosn’s family.
It has been learned that a large sum of money had been transferred to the Taylors from the Ghosn side, apparent as a reward for helping his escape. According to a record from U.S. authorities, some of the money was paid by a son of the former boss of the major Japanese automaker in the form of cryptocurrency.
In an interview with a U.S. magazine, Taylor has said that he had met with Ghosn’s wife, Carole, 54, in Beirut, the capital of Lebanon, quoting her as saying that her husband was being treated like a captive. The special investigation team has obtained an arrest warrant for Carole on suspicion of perjury related to Ghosn’s alleged financial misconduct.
It is also unclear how Ghosn made contact with people around him while he was on bail. He had to use a mobile phone without internet connection as a condition for his bail, and there was no call record suggesting that he was planning to skip out on bail.
After leaving Japan, Ghosn spoke to foreign media that he plotted his escape by contacting a person outside Japan. Prosecutors have been unable to seize Ghosn’s personal computer due to objections from a then lawyer for him.