Americans Who Masterminded Carlos Ghosn’s Escape Now in Japanese Custody

Carlos Ghosn, former chairman of Nissan Motor Co., as he leaves his residence for a pre-trial hearing at the Tokyo District Court in Tokyo, Japan, on Thursday, May 23, 2019. Photo: Toru Hanai/Bloomberg via Getty Images

In 2019, when former Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn was facing financial misconduct charges in Japan, he did what any wealthy person in an untenable situation would do: He fled, on a private jet, hidden inside of a large box usually used for transporting loudspeakers. He landed in his native Lebanon, which does not have an extradition treaty with Japan. Ghosn has since been enjoying great popularity in his home country, hired a Hollywood agent, and seems to be doing pretty well.

Of course, one doesn’t pull off escaping house arrest in a foreign nation by oneself. Ghosn hired U.S. Army Green Beret veteran Michael Taylor and his son, Peter, to pull off this elaborate scheme. But even though he escaped justice, the Taylors weren’t so lucky. They were arrested in May 2020 and were sitting in a Massachusetts jail until Monday, when they were finally turned over to Japanese officials to stand trial there on charges of aiding a fugitive from justice.

The Taylors’ legal team has been resisting extradition since the father and son were locked up last year. According to the AP, they hired former Trump administration attorney Ty Cobb as an “attempt to get Trump to block the extradition before he left office,” but were unsuccessful. In February, Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer denied the bid to put the Taylors’ extradition on hold.

Shortly before Michael Taylor was arrested, he gave an interview to Vanity Fair, detailing the incredible, cinematic story of Ghosn’s escape. According to the magazine, Taylor, experienced in difficult extraction missions, met with Ghosn’s wife, Carole, who told him that her husband had been treated “like a POW,” subjected to eight-hour long interrogations while in Japanese prison. “I felt he was a hostage,” Taylor told Vanity Fair. “He was being tortured … I had empathy for the guy.”

To get Ghosn out of Japan, Taylor recruited other ex-Special Forces agents, and eventually they figured out that the best way to get a person out of a country undetected was on a private jet, inside of a very big box. They left on a day where the surveillance feed from the security cameras inside Ghosn’s apartment would not be collected, and met at a hotel where the former CEO was allowed to eat lunch. In a room booked under the name Peter Taylor, Ghosn put on a new set of clothes, and made his way onto a bullet train from Tokyo to Osaka. They then put Ghosn inside the box, and flew to Istanbul, out of an airport that didn’t have scanners big enough to process the container that hid Ghosn.

Michael and Peter Taylor’s legal team unsuccessfully argued against extradition due to concerns that they would be subject to unfair treatment in Japan, as well as “mental and physical torture.” The two Americans are not the only members of the extraction team who are facing legal consequences for their role in freeing Ghosn. Last month, an executive and two pilots at Turkish jet company MNG that ferried Ghosn out of Japan were convicted of migrant smuggling.

Ghosn has maintained that he is innocent and was set up. “I fled injustice and political persecution,” he told the New York Times in January of last year. The United Nations seemingly affirmed Ghosn’s perception of his mistreatment, when its Human Rights Council’s Working Group on Arbitrary Detention issued a report, in November 2020, that recommended that he receive “compensation” and “other reparations” from Japan for the way the country treated him during his arrest and imprisonment.

Japan Takes Custody of Carlos Ghosn’s Escape Masterminds