Former U.S. Green Beret, Son Arrested In Carlos Ghosn Escape Case
The U.S. Justice Department brings the hammer down on two Americans allegedly involved in Ghosn's flight from justice.
Two American men, a former United States Army Special Forces operator and his son, have been charged with helping disgraced former Nissan and Renault boss Carlos Ghosn escape Japan before his financial misconduct trial. Michael Taylor, a 59-year-old former Green Beret, and his 27-year-old son Peter Taylor, now face extradition to Japan themselves after being charged in a Massachusetts federal court.
It's the latest development in the bizarre, prolonged saga of Ghosn's downfall that feels more out of an action movie than anything that could happen in real life. Ghosn was out on bail at the time of his daring escape over charges of financial misconduct, which include using company funds for personal expenditures, under-reporting his income and transferring personal losses to Nissan.
The former executive hid inside a large instrument case to avoid attention while getting out of Japan, and then was flown to his home country of Lebanon, where he's been hiding out as a fugitive ever since as Lebanon has no extradition treaty with Japan. The plot became so infamous that even Yamaha felt the need to advise people not to hide inside its equipment cases. It is the Taylors who are now accused of facilitating that scheme.
U.S. marshals arrested the two Taylors in Harvard, Mass. after U.S. law enforcement learned that Peter Taylor booked a flight, according to the Associated Press. The flight was scheduled to go from Boston to Beirut with a layover in London, set to depart today. Ghosn remains in Lebanon after escaping from a hotel—allegedly with the help of the Taylors—in Japan last year. The two were allegedly aided by their housemate, George-Antoine Zayek, a U.S. citizen originally from Lebanon.
According to federal court documents obtained by The Drive, Japanese investigators found that the three men had a lengthy history of traveling to meet with Ghosn ahead of Ghosn's Dec. 29 escape. Peter Taylor met with Ghosn at least seven times before Ghosn fled Japan, starting in July, then August, and finally at the end of the year.
The heist began after Michael Taylor and Zayek traveled via private jet from Dubai to Japan on Dec. 29, 2019, as described in U.S. court documents:
Michael Taylor and Zayek entered the country transporting two large boxes, as shown in video camera surveillance images. The black boxes looked like they were for audio equipment, and Michael Taylor and Zayek told Kansai airport workers that they were musicians.
The duo then boarded a train from Osaka into Tokyo, where they met up with Ghosn, according to court documents. Ghosn left his room without any luggage to the Grand Hyatt Tokyo, where Peter Taylor was staying. Ghosn already planned his exit with Peter Taylor, as he had a key to reach Taylor's room and his luggage had been previously taken to Taylor's room at the Grand Hyatt.
After a change of clothes in Peter Taylor's room, Michael Taylor and Zayek met up with them in the hotel room, and all four carried luggage out to leave, according to court documents. Peter Taylor split from the other three at this point, and the others boarded a train to Osaka, where the instrument boxes were waiting. The court documents continue:
At approximately 9:57 p.m., Michael Taylor and Zayek left Room 4609 with luggage, including the two large [instrument] boxes, and departed for Kansai International Airport. There is no image of Ghosn leaving Room 4609. Instead, Ghosn was hiding in one of the two large boxes being carried by Michael Taylor and Zayek.
Michael Taylor and Zayek arrived at Kansai International Airport at approximately 10:20 p.m., with luggage, including the two large black boxes, one of which contained Ghosn. Once at the airport, their luggage passed through the security gate without being checked and was loaded onto a private jet. The two men boarded a private jet and departed for Turkey at approximately 11:10 p.m.
Two days later, on December 31, 2019, Ghosn made a public announcement that he was in Lebanon. The same day, the Tokyo District Court revoked his bail.
Japan issued arrest warrants in January for the Taylors and Zayek for helping with Ghosn's escape. The U.S. Justice Department followed up with their own arrest warrants on May 6. The U.S. has an extradition treaty with Japan, and Japan informed U.S. officials that it intends to file a formal extradition request, per court documents.
Michael and Peter Taylor were expected to flee if they knew of an arrest warrant, so they will remain in U.S. custody, prosecutors said.
“The plot to spirit Ghosn out of Japan was one of the most brazen and well-orchestrated escape acts in recent history, involving a dizzying array of hotel meet-ups, bullet train travel, fake personas, and the chartering of a private jet,” prosecutors were quoted as saying in The Wall Street Journal.
Ghosn claims that he faced inhumane treatment while in Japanese custody and noted that the Japanese justice system—complete with the country's 99% conviction rate—isn't set up to give him a fair trial. He continues to deny all of his Japanese charges, including breach of trust, misappropriation of company funds and under-reporting his earnings. Additionally, he faces a $90 million lawsuit from Nissan over his alleged misappropriation of funds and breach of fiduciary duty.
The Taylors are scheduled to appear via video conference today before a U.S. federal judge. No information was given about Zayek's whereabouts in the court documents regarding the Taylors' arrest.
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