Before becoming an internationally hunted fugitive, Carlos Ghosn was the embodiment of the intrepid CEO-type pop culture loves to adore.
He brought Nissan back from the brink of fiscal ruin and helped foster the Renault–Nissan–Mitsubishi Alliance, (which is one of the most profitable shareholding agreements in history). He even made occasional TV appearances—charming broadcasters with his well-documented fluency.
But in late 2020, Ghosn saw the writing on the wall. His lucrative run as CEO and Chairman at Nissan was allegedly supported by complex embezzlement schemes.
On November 19, officials arrested the high-ranking magnate at Tokyo International Airport on allegations of under-reporting his salary and misuse of company assets. The events that followed more than lived up to Ghosn’s theatrical rise in the automobile industry.
With the help of a former US special forces operative, his son, a Turkish airline official, two pilots, and a musical instrument case with 70 breathing holes cut into it, Ghosn fled his Japanese prison cell for Lebanon.
“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 said in a press statement.
Prosecutors claim that Ghosn—alongside American board member, Gregg Kelly—concealed massive, off-the-books payouts from Nissan over an extended period of time.
On the other side of the narrative, is Nissan executive and former protégé of Mr. Kelly, Hari Nada.
Initially, Nada was under suspicion of the crimes that now haunt Ghosn. Japanese law enforcement was in the process of devising criminal charges against both men when the former slid into the role of whistleblower.
Nada offered his complete cooperation, sought legal immunity, got it, then unraveled the corruption that seized the top offices at Nissan in nearly 1,000 pages worth of internal documents.
There aren’t really any heroes in this story. There are just those with better tactical acumen than others. Even though Nada is alleged to have participated in the fraudulent culture indexed by prosecutors, he holds the title of Nissan executive and star witness in Ghosn and Kelly’s case simultaneously.
Meanwhile, the US father-son duo accused of smuggling Ghosn out of Japan is fighting to block court-ordered extradition. The two don’t believe that they’ll receive a fair trial in Japan. The father, Michael Taylor, recently spoke to reporters from his jail cell in Boston.
“You dedicate your time in the military and you serve in combat and you do a whole bunch of other things,” Taylor said. “And now they volunteer to extradite me and my son to Japan for something like this? Yeah, you feel a great sense of betrayal.”
When the elder Taylor was enlisted as an operative, he was responsible for recovering abducted children, executing sting operations for the FBI to bust illegal drug operations, in addition to working as a contractor for the US military in Iraq and Afghanistan.
He and his son, Peter made several attempts to appeal to former President, Donald Trump and even got their extradition put on hold.
“My father is in his mid-80s now. We’re going to get over there and we’re going to get tortured,” Peter said. “I’m not going to be here for my father’s last days, which I’d like to be obviously. His grandson would like to be as well. Don’t you think we’ve been punished enough already?”
Court documents suggest that the Taylors were paid at least $1.3 million for their roles in Ghosn’s escape. Then, the Nissan fugitive reportedly wired more than $860,000 to a company associated with Peter Taylor on top of $500,000 in cryptocurrency payments made to the Taylors by Ghosn’s son.
“Taylor presents an enormous risk of flight, ”a federal judge said of Michael. “His alleged involvement in the Ghosn plot demonstrates his aptitude for hatching escape plans on a grand scale and his blatant disrespect for bond conditions.”
Peter Taylor allegedly flew to Japan on three separate occasions to meet with Ghosn beginning in July 2019. Meetings took place a total of seven times before an escape plan was officially devised. Michael Taylor and a Lebanese-born U.S. citizen named George Zayek waited for the two in Osaka by private jet from Dubai with large musical equipment boxes.
Surveillance videos show the two meeting up with Mr. Ghosn and Peter at the latter’s hotel room and then all four men were spotted on video leaving together, just before Peter left the group onboard a flight to China.
The Turkish pilots accused of aiding his escape are facing eight years in prison for “illegally smuggling a migrant.”