Prosecutors probe 2 Americans for allegedly helping Ghosn escape

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Tokyo prosecutors have launched an investigation into two Americans for allegedly helping former Nissan Motor Co Chairman Carlos Ghosn escape from Japan in December, a source close to the matter said Wednesday.

Prosecutors suspect Michael Taylor, a former member of the U.S. Army Special Forces known as Green Berets, and George Zayek cooperated with Ghosn in fleeing Japan to Lebanon on private jets on Dec. 29, the source said.

Zayek, a Lebanese-born U.S. citizen, had worked with Taylor at times over more than a decade and also worked in private security with U.S. forces in Afghanistan and Iraq, The Wall Street Journal has reported citing relatives in Lebanon.

Ghosn met with the two men at a hotel in Tokyo and took a bullet train to Osaka Prefecture before flying out of Kansai International Airport, according to the source. He reportedly evaded airport security checks by hiding in a box prepared by the men and flew to Turkey and then to Lebanon. There was no record of Ghosn leaving Japan.

The prosecutors the same day searched the office of a lawyer who used to represent Ghosn in connection with his escape to Lebanon.

The lawyer, Junichiro Hironaka, told reporters after the search that they seized documents related to dates and names of the people the former Nissan top executive had met during his release on bail.

Hironaka said he refused to hand over to prosecutors a computer Ghosn used at the office in Tokyo, citing a lawyer’s right to refuse seizure based on criminal procedure law.

Hironaka resigned as a defense lawyer for Ghosn on Jan. 16 after the surprise escape by the 65-year-old former auto tycoon, who was facing trial over alleged financial misconduct while in charge of the Japanese automaker.

After arriving in Lebanon, Ghosn held a press conference and said he was escaping the country’s “rigged” justice system.

Prosecutors and police are investigating whether Ghosn left the country illegally.

Ghosn has been charged over the alleged underreporting of his remuneration by billions of yen in Nissan’s securities reports during the eight years through March 2018 as well as misuse of company funds.

© KYODO

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