Michael Taylor, a former Green Beret, and his son Peter could be extradited to Japan to face criminal charges for helping former auto titan Carlos Ghosn flee the country in December 2019. Ghosn is the former Nissan Motor Co. Chairman. He was awaiting trial on financial misconduct charges.
According to court documents, the two men allegedly hid Ghosn in a shipping case drilled with air holes and smuggled him out of Japan on a chartered jet.
The men’s lawyers said the State Department has informed them that it would approve Japan’s extradition request. As per its policy on pending extradition requests, the State Department offered no comment.
Nevertheless, a federal judge has intervened to block their immediate extradition letting them stay in Massachusetts.
The two men were arrested in Massachusetts on May 2o. Investigators are still seeking George-Antoine Zayek, a Lebanese-born colleague of Taylor.
Over the years, Taylor had been hired by parents to rescue abducted children. He had gone undercover for the FBI to sting a Massachusetts drug gang. He had also worked as a military contractor in Iraq and Afghanistan, an assignment that landed him in a Utah jail in a federal fraud case.
Taylor has “gotten himself involved in situations that most people would never even think of, dangerous situations, but for all the right reasons,” Paul Kelly, a former federal prosecutor in Boston, who has known the security consultant since the early 1990s, had said earlier this year.
“Was I surprised when I read the story that he may have been involved in what took place in Japan? No, not at all.”
Kelly, now serving as the attorney for the Taylors, said they plan to challenge Japan’s extradition request “on several legal and factual grounds.”
“Michael Taylor is a distinguished veteran and patriot, and both he and his son deserve a full and fair hearing regarding these issues,” Kelly said in an email.
The security business that Taylor and a partner had set up decades ago was initially focused on private investigations. Its caseload grew through corporate work and unofficial referrals from the State Department and FBI.
The plot to free Ghosn began last fall when operatives started scouting Japanese terminals reserved for private jets. Tokyo has two airports within easy reach of Ghosn’s home. But the group settled on the remote terminal at Osaka’s Kansai International Airport, where machines used to X-ray baggage could not accommodate large boxes and which a nearly empty private jet terminal.
In a statement from Lebanon, the former Nissan Motor boss said that he escaped without his family’s help. Citing an unidentified person familiar with the matter, Dow Jones reported on Monday that the team behind the extraction was comprised of 10 to 15 people of different nationalities. The team took more than 20 trips to Japan and visited at least 10 airports while planning the escape.
According to court papers, Michael Taylor and Zayek flew into Japan on the day of the escape on a chartered jet with two large black boxes. They claimed to be musicians carrying audio equipment.
Around 2:30 that afternoon, Ghosn, free on hefty bail, left his house on a leafy street in Tokyo’s Roppongi neighborhood and walked to the nearby Grand Hyatt Hotel. He went to a room there and departing two hours later to board a bullet train for Osaka.
That evening, his rescuers wheeled shipping boxes through the Osaka private jet terminal known as Premium Gate Tamayura — “fleeting moment” in Japanese. The terminal employees let the men pass without inspecting their cargo.
At 11:10 p.m., the chartered Bombardier, its windows fitted with pleated shades, lifted off. The flight went first to Turkey, then to Lebanon, of which Ghosn is a citizen. Lebanon has no extradition treaty with Japan.
“I didn’t run from justice,” Ghosn told reporters after he resurfaced. “I left Japan because I wanted justice.”
As an experienced secret operative, Taylor is well versed in the art of sharing information only on a need-to-know basis. His wife said she was unaware of whether or not her husband participated in Ghosn’s flight from Japan. Asked whether her husband could come to the phone or return a call, she said that Taylor wasn’t available as “he’s out of the country.”