An ex-Army Green Beret and his son were arrested Wednesday after being charged with helping a former chairman of Nissan Motor Co. escape from Japan while awaiting trial for financial crimes, according to a federal criminal complaint filed May 6.
Japanese authorities issued warrants earlier this year and sought the extradition of Michael Taylor, a 59-year-old former Special Forces soldier turned private security contractor, and his son Peter, 27, after investigators say they aided in the Dec. 29 escape of Carlos Ghosn by hiding him in containers for music equipment aboard a private jet.
Japanese officials have been seeking extradition of the two men, and earlier this month, U.S. authorities filed a criminal complaint in Massachusetts seeking arrest warrants. After discovering that the younger Taylor booked a May 20 flight from Boston to Beirut, Lebanon — the same country Ghosn fled to — the arrests were executed by U.S. Marshals at their Harvard home.
The Japanese government alleged that Ghosn conspired with others to falsely state his compensation in Nissan’s annual reports and shifted financial losses from his asset management company to Nissan. Ghosn has denied the charges against him.
After being indicted and arrested for those crimes in Japan, he was released on bond in April 2019 under the conditions that he not flee or take any overseas trips.
In the months leading up to Ghosn’s escape, Japanese immigration records show that Peter Taylor traveled to Japan at least three times. The first time was in July 2019, then again in August and finally in early December, the month of the escape, according to the federal complaint.
Peter Taylor met with Ghosn at least seven times during those trips. The visits were recorded by surveillance cameras that Ghosn was required to maintain at his residence as one of the conditions of his bail.
After the summer visits, the two men finally met again on Dec. 28 at the Grand Hyatt Tokyo, the complaints stated, citing cameras, immigration forms and hotel records. After Peter Taylor checked in, Ghosn arrived at the Grand Hyatt and met with him for roughly one hour.
On the day of the escape, Michael Taylor and a third man, George Antoine Zayek, 60, arrived at Kansai International Airport in Japan on a private jet. They brought with them two large black boxes that looked like they were for sound equipment, telling airport workers they were both musicians. They later checked into the Star Gate Hotel close to Kansai Airport and brought the large boxes with them.
Ghosn was captured on camera once again leaving his home on Dec. 29, heading to Peter Taylor’s hotel room, and changing clothes. Michael Taylor and Zayek met them there and the four men all left the Grand Hyatt together. Peter Taylor separated from the rest of group, traveling to Narita Airport where he boarded a flight to China. Ghosn, Michael Taylor, and Zayek traveled back to the Star Gate Hotel.
The three remaining men all entered the same room together at about 8 p.m. Two hours later, Michael Taylor and Zayek left the room with their luggage, including the two large boxes, and departed for Kansai International Airport. There is no image of Ghosn leaving the room, according to the criminal complaint. Instead, he was hiding in one of the two large black boxes, federal authorities alleged.
“Once at the airport, their baggage passed through the security check without being screened and was loaded onto a private jet,” the complaint reads. “The two men boarded the private jet with the large boxes 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.”
Michael Taylor is described by the Wall Street Journal, which first detailed elements of the escape in a January article, as a man who became a private security and rescue operations expert following his military service. He reportedly has contacts in Beirut from his time serving there in the 1980s.
The New York Times also previously hired Michael Taylor to assist in the rescue of David Rohde, a reporter for the publication who was taken by Afghan militants in November 2008 and held in Pakistan’s tribal areas for seven months, according to the paper.
From 1994 to 2014, Taylor was the president of the Massachusetts-based American International Security Corp., which dealt in hostage negotiations, information collection, vulnerability assessments and protective services.
The event is yet another international snafu involving former members of the Army’s Green Berets, a group that typically attempts to remain out of the public’s eye.
A botched coup attempt in Venezuela earlier this month was led by a former Green Beret named Jordan Goudreau and involved two other former Green Berets — Luke Denman and Airan Berry — who were captured during the operation.
Goudreau’s whereabouts remain unknown. However, he is now under federal investigation for arms trafficking, current and former U.S. law enforcement officials told the Associated Press.
Kyle Rempfer is an editor and reporter whose investigations have covered combat operations, criminal cases, foreign military assistance and training accidents. Before entering journalism, Kyle served in U.S. Air Force Special Tactics and deployed in 2014 to Paktika Province, Afghanistan, and Baghdad, Iraq.
Howard Altman is an award-winning editor and reporter who was previously the military reporter for the Tampa Bay Times and before that the Tampa Tribune, where he covered USCENTCOM, USSOCOM and SOF writ large among many other topics.