July 25, 2021

ex-US Special Forces member and son admit to helping Carlos Ghosn escape

On the first day of the trial attempting to shed light on the incredible escape of Carlos Ghosn in December 2019, two Americans admitted their role in the discreet extraction of the big boss of Renault-Nissan on Monday June 14 in Tokyo. They face up to three years in prison.

Michael Taylor, a 60-year-old former member of the US special forces converted to private security, and his son Peter, 28, were handed over in early March to Japanese prosecutors who came to pick them up in Boston, United States. The Taylors were arrested in May 2020 by the American justice system under a Japanese arrest warrant. They were then detained because they were considered to have a “Great risk of flight”.

The two men had multiplied the recourse to their extradition to the Supreme Court of the United States, in vain, arguing through the voice of their lawyers that they feared to be subjected to conditions close to torture if they were delivered. to the Japanese authorities. They were finally extradited last March.

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“Cheeky” leak

On the morning of December 31, 2019, Japan discovered with amazement the flight to Lebanon of its most famous defendant, Carlos Ghosn, until then on bail pending trial for alleged financial embezzlement, with the ban on leaving the country. Two days earlier, the Franco-Lebanese-Brazilian had quietly left his home in Tokyo to reach Osaka (west) by taking the Shinkansen (Japanese high-speed train) wearing a hat, mask and glasses to avoid being recognized. The two men accompanying him were identified from surveillance footage: Michael Taylor and George-Antoine Zayek, a man of Lebanese origin who remains nowhere to be found.

The three men joined a hotel near Kansai International Airport, near Osaka. Investigators believe that Carlos Ghosn then slipped into a large box of audio equipment, pierced with small holes to allow him to breathe, before being boarded a private jet. Baggage screening was not compulsory in Japan at the time for this type of device. A document from American prosecutors mentions “One of the most brazen and best orchestrated leaks in recent history”.

The fallen auto tycoon, who is the subject of an Interpol arrest request, remains beyond the reach of Japanese justice because Lebanon does not extradite its nationals. Lebanese justice, however, prohibited him from leaving the country.

Possible family ties

The one who declared to have “Not fled from justice”, more “Escaped injustice” in Japan, remained very discreet about the conditions of its exfiltration for “Protect those who took the risk” to help. He claims to have not involved members of his family. However, her youngest daughter, Maya, brought two suitcases to Peter Taylor in Tokyo on December 29. And it is Carole, the wife of Carlos Ghosn, who would have made the first contact with Michael Taylor six months before the leak, also meeting him in Lebanon in the summer of 2019, according to Japanese prosecutors.

Mr. Ghosn then allegedly spoke with Michael Taylor via a clandestine cell phone. The Taylors received more than $ 1.3 million from Camp Ghosn, including more than $ 860,000 (approximately € 710,000) to pay the costs of the operation, then after his exfiltration approximately $ 500,000 (approximately € 413,000) ) in bitcoins to pay their attorney fees, again according to Japanese prosecutors.

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Multiple trials

In February, three Turkish nationals were convicted by an Istanbul court in the case of Mr Ghosn’s flight: an official at Turkish private jet rental company MNG Jet and two pilots. Four other people were acquitted.

In addition, the leak of Mr. Ghosn did not prevent the opening last year of a criminal trial in Tokyo over deferred compensation totaling several tens of millions of dollars that the boss of Nissan was supposed to receive from his. retirement, but without this being mentioned in the group’s stock market reports. A former Nissan legal official, the American Greg Kelly, arrested on the same day as Mr. Ghosn in November 2018, finds himself alone on the dock, Nissan being tried as a legal person. Mr. Kelly, who faces up to ten years in prison, denies having acted illegally in this trial with often very technical debates and whose last hearing is scheduled for early July, while Nissan has pleaded guilty.

While being engaged in several civil litigation against Nissan, Mr. Ghosn, who claims his innocence across the board, is also concerned by various investigations in France. French investigating judges recently interviewed him for several days in Beirut. But Mr. Ghosn cannot be indicted outside French territory.

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The World with AFP