When work means jail time for you

It is going to be a rough Father’s Day for Michael and Peter Taylor. The former US special forces operative and his son are now looking at jail time after aiding helping aid former chairman and CEO of Nissan, Carlos Ghosn in his escape from prison in Japan.

After being served charges of under-reporting earnings and the misappropriation of company funds, Ghosn was placed in a court-monitored Tokyo house before fleeing to his country of birth, Lebanon, in late December. Fearful of the possibility of a botched trial, the auto-magnate returned to Japan to await his first court date. 

The case took a dramatic turn however when a former Green Beret by the name of Michael L. Taylor, attempted to smuggle Mr.Ghosn out of Japan inside of a musical equipment box.

According to federal prosecutors, Taylor did not act alone but his son, Peter, and a Lebanese-born U.S. citizen named George Zayek are the only identified accomplices at this time. Observers were alerted to Taylor’s questionable associates thanks to comments like this one supplied before the charges at hand: “I learned about Carlos Ghosn’s plight, and felt very much like him, in the sense that we were both held hostage in an unfair legal system.”

Zayek worked with Taylor’s Boston-based security company in the past and himself worked in private security with U.S. forces in Afghanistan and Iraq. The men told various flight workers that they were traveling musicians in order to avoid progressive dialogue with authorities. 

Through means that have yet to be fully determined, Taylor was able to sneak Ghosn onto a private jet at an Osaka airport. Ghosn subsequently changed planes somewhere in Turkey and is reported to be back in Lebanon. Japan has 45 days to issue a formal extradition request.

Meanwhile, both Michael and Peter Taylor were arrested early Wednesday in their family home back in Massachusetts.

Michael Taylor, age 59, has something of a knack for complex recovery operations. For years, Taylor served the US as a security operative and former Army Special Forces soldier. Back in 2009 he made headlines for his daring rescue of New York Times reporter David Rohde from Taliban custody in Afghanistan. Accomplishments like these appear to be influencing detainment and surveillance practices utilized by law enforcement. 

“Taylor presents an enormous risk of flight, ”a federal judge said in a statement this morning. “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.”

The blueprint for this particular rescue mission was likely drafted late last year. 

Peter Taylor, then 26 years old, flew to Japan on three separate occasions to consult with Mr. Ghosn beginning in July 2019. Meetings took place a total of seven times before an escape plan was officially hatched. 

During his third and final trip in late December, Peter Taylor allegedly checked into a Tokyo hotel to discuss things further with Ghosn. The very next day Ghosn arrived at Peter’s doorstep to change clothes.

Michael Taylor and Mr. Zayek waited for the two in Osaka by private jet from Dubai with large musical equipment boxes.  

“Their baggage passed through the security check without being screened and was loaded onto a private jet,” court documents report.

The pair then made their way to Tokyo by train. Surveillance videos show the two meeting up with Mr. Ghosn and Peter Taylor at the latter’s hotel room and then all four men were spotted on video leaving together, just before Peter Taylor left the group onboard a flight to China.

Once in Turkey, Mr. Ghosn boarded a second jet for Lebanon, while Michael Taylor and Mr. Zayek took a commercial flight to Lebanon.

Authorities have yet to identify a clear motive. Presently, there is no evidence of monetary transactions, though the case is still young. 

Turkish officers are currently investigating potential co-conspirators  within airport security systems that might explain the exclusion of such an intricate coup

“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 argued in defense of Mr. Taylor’s detention.

 CW Headley is a reporter for the Ladders and can be reached at cheadley@theladders.com