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Two accused of smuggling ex-Nissan boss out of Japan in a box

by Ace Damon
Two accused of smuggling ex-Nissan boss out of Japan in a box

WASHINGTON –
A former Green Beret and his son were arrested Wednesday in Massachusetts on charges of smuggling Carlos Ghosn, president of Nissan Motor Co., out of Japan in a box while he was awaiting trial on charges of financial misconduct.

Michael Taylor, 59, a former Green Beret and private security expert, and Peter Taylor, 27, are wanted by Japan on charges of helping Ghosn escape the country in December after he was released on bail.

The Taylors were arrested by the US Marshal Service at Harvard. They appeared before a federal prison judge by videoconference, wearing orange overalls and covers of their tanned face because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Assistant US Attorney Stephen Hassink said Japan plans to "as soon as possible" send a formal request to extradite the Taylors.

A Taylors lawyer said he plans to challenge Japan's extradition request "for a variety of legal and factual reasons".

"Michael Taylor is a distinguished veteran and patriot, and he and his son deserve a full and fair hearing on these issues, both before the courts and with the executive branch," said Paul V. Kelly in an email.

The story of the daring escape began on December 28, 2019, when Peter Taylor arrived in Japan and met Ghosn at the Grand Hyatt Tokyo for about an hour, officials said.

Just before 10 am the next day, Michael Taylor flew to Osaka, Japan, on a Dubai Bombardier Global Express chartered jet with another man, George-Antoine Zayek, carrying two large black boxes with them.

Elder Taylor was experienced in difficult situations. Over the years, he was hired by his parents to rescue kidnapped children, was disguised for the FBI by stabbing a Massachusetts drug gang and worked as a contractor for the US armed forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. The last mission took him to Utah prison for 14 months, caught in a case of federal contract fraud that upset Taylor's family and finances before he agreed to plead guilty to two charges.

It is not yet clear how Ghosn got involved with Taylor.

When they arrived, Taylor and his Lebanese colleague, Zayek, told airport officials that they were musicians carrying audio equipment. Meanwhile, Ghosn, who was in custody on bail, went to the Grand Hyatt in Tokyo and met Peter Taylor in his hotel room, officials said.

Elder Taylor and Zayek came together after a brief stop to rent a separate room near the airport. And shortly after their arrival, the group left the Grand Hyatt and separated.

Peter Taylor went to the airport to board a flight to China, according to court documents. The others jumped on a bullet train and arrived at Shin-Osaka station about four hours later, officials said.

They took a taxi and headed back to the imposing luxury hotel where Taylor and Zayek had booked a room earlier in the day.

They all came in; only two would be seen leaving.

Officials say Ghosn was inside one of the big black boxes, carried by the two men to Japan's Kansai International Airport, officials said. The boxes passed an unchecked security post and were loaded on a private jet to Turkey, according to the documents.

At 11:10 pm, the chartered Bombardier, with pleated curtain windows, took off with Ghosn on board. The flight was first to Turkey, then to Lebanon, where Ghosn has citizenship, but has no extradition treaty with Japan.

Two days later, Ghosn publicly announced that he was in Lebanon.

He said he fled because he could not wait for a fair trial, was subject to unfair terms of detention and was prevented from meeting his wife on his bail terms.

Ghosn maintains that he is innocent of allegations that he underreported his future income and committed a breach of trust, diverting Nissan's money for his personal gain. He says that compensation was never decided or received and that Nissan's payments were for legitimate business purposes.

A spokesman for Ghosn's legal team declined to comment on Wednesday's developments.

Peter Taylor has traveled to Japan at least three times since July 2019 and has met with Ghosn at least seven times during these visits, according to court records. Japanese authorities have also issued a provisional warrant for Zayek's arrest.

Lebanese officials said Ghosn entered the country legally with a French passport, although he was required to hand over all three passports to his lawyers on bail terms. He also has Brazilian and Lebanese citizenship.

The security businesses that Michael Taylor and a partner created decades ago initially focused on private investigations, but the number of cases grew through corporate work and unofficial references from the State Department and the FBI, including parents whose children were taken to the abroad by ex-spouses.

In 2012, federal prosecutors claimed that Taylor had won a US military contract to train Afghan soldiers using secret information transmitted by an American officer. When Taylor learned that the contract was being investigated, he asked an agent and friend of the FBI to intervene, accused by prosecutors.

The government seized $ 5 million from Taylor's bank account. Facing 50 charges, he spent 14 months in prison before agreeing to plead guilty to two charges. The government agreed to return $ 2 million to the company, in addition to confiscated vehicles.

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Richest report from West Harwich, Massachusetts. Associated Press writers Adam Geller in New York and Yuri Kageyama in Tokyo contributed to this report.

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