TOKYO — Japan said it was working to secure the rapid extradition of two men arrested in the United States on charges of enabling the dramatic escape of former Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn from the country.
U.S. authorities on Wednesday arrested a former special forces soldier and another man wanted by Japan over the charges regarding Ghosn's escape in late December, while awaiting trial on accusations of financial misconduct.
Federal prosecutors in Massachusetts said the men, former U.S. Green Beret Michael Taylor, 59, and his son Peter Taylor, 27, helped Ghosn last year flee to Lebanon to avoid trial in Japan over alleged financial wrongdoing.
"We are making preparations, including working to cooperate on a speedy extradition," Japanese chief cabinet officer Yoshihide Suga told reporters on Thursday, acknowledging the arrests.
The Taylors appeared by video in U.S. federal court on Wednesday afternoon for the first hearing in a process that could lead to their prosecution in Japan. A judge told them the procedure could take some time, as Japan has 45 days to file a formal extradition request under its treaty with the U.S.
Japan in January issued arrest warrants for both men along with a third, George-Antoine Zayek, in connection with facilitating the Dec. 29, 2019 escape.
Ghosn fled to Lebanon, his childhood home, while he was awaiting trial on charges of under-reporting earnings, breach of trust and misappropriation of company funds, all of which he denies.
The arrests come a week before the expected announcement of a major restructuring plan at Nissan, the latest effort to turn around the fortunes of the automaker that has seen its finances weaken and management in turmoil following Ghosn’s arrest and ouster.
U.S. legal papers recount the details of Ghosn's escape including his departure from Japan hidden in a large black box aboard a private jet.
Japanese lawyer Junichiro Hironaka, who had defended Ghosn until his flight from the country, said in a telephone interview Thursday that the key question is whether there is enough evidence to extradite the Taylors, and that he would watch developments closely.
Nissan said in an emailed statement it notes the extradition proceedings and reserves the right to take further legal measures against Ghosn. The company filed a civil suit in Japan earlier this year seeking 10 billion yen ($93 million) in damages from its former boss for alleged misconduct.