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US hands over men accused of helping Carlos Ghosn escape

The father and son accused of orchestrating Carlos Ghosn’s daring escape from Japan have arrived in Tokyo from the US and are in police custody, people familiar with the matter said.

Michael Taylor, a former Green Beret-turned-security contractor, and his son, Peter, had been fighting extradition to Japan since their arrest outside Boston last May.

Taylor warned in a recent interview with the Associated Press that he feared he and his son would be treated unfairly, and possibly tortured, by Japanese authorities. 

But the US Supreme Court last month rejected an emergency petition filed by their lawyers, clearing the way for them to face charges in Japan.

Japanese authorities have accused the Taylors of leading an operation in December 2019 to smuggle Ghosn out of the country in a musical equipment case that had special air holes drilled into it. At the time, the former Nissan chairman was under house arrest in Japan awaiting trial on charges of financial misconduct.

The plan involved whisking Ghosn on a bullet train from Tokyo to an airport with lighter security in Osaka before taking him by private jet to Turkey and then to Lebanon, which does not have an extradition treaty with Japan.

Ghosn, who has remained in Beirut, has denied the financial charges, and said he fled because he would not have received a fair trial in Japan.

The Taylors could face up to four and a half years in prison if they are convicted of helping Ghosn escape in violation of Japan’s immigration control law.

Yoko Kamikawa, Japan’s justice minister, declined to comment on whether Tokyo prosecutors arrested the Taylors at a news conference on Tuesday, but she said that she believed Ghosn should also face trial in the country. 

The Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office also declined to comment.

Before allegedly taking part in the Ghosn escape, Michael Taylor specialised in extracting hostages and abducted children in the Middle East and performed undercover work in the region for the US Drug Enforcement Administration.

He also spent 14 months in prison in Utah for bribery and kickbacks in connection with $54m in US security contracts in Afghanistan. Years earlier, he had brushes with the law as a private investigator in Boston.

In interviews, Taylor, whose wife is Lebanese, said he was motivated to help Ghosn out of principle, not profit.

The US Department of Justice declined to comment. For security reasons, it does not typically discuss the timing of extradition handovers. 

A court in Istanbul last month handed prison sentences to three employees of the Turkish airline that ferried Ghosn out of Japan. 

Greg Kelly, Ghosn’s former deputy, is also on trial in Tokyo, fighting charges that he helped Nissan’s former chairman conceal the true scale of his pay.

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