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Illustration by Security Management

Two Americans Alleged to Have Helped Embezzler Escape Extradited to Japan

Early in 2020, Carlos Ghosn, the former Chairman of Nissan Motor Co.,  was accused of stealing millions of dollars from the company. Awaiting trial in Japan, he fled house arrest and is now in Lebanon. The two Americans Japan says got him there were extradited from the United States this week, landing in Japan today to be questioned about their part in aiding Ghosn.

Father and son Michael and Peter Taylor had been in a Boston-area jail since May, fighting their extradition to Japan. The first U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected an emergency petition to halt their extradition in mid-February. Days later, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to intervene, exhausting the duo’s legal options.

According to the Associated Press, the two can be held at the Tokyo Detention Center and questioned for up to 23 days before formal charges are entered. The length of time may be extended if the investigation leads to additional alleged crimes.

Michael Taylor does not deny that he helped Ghosn escape. He gave an interview to Vanity Fair magazine that led to an article published in July last year. The article explains that Taylor was a former Green Beret in the U.S. special forces, and had a reputation for specialized recovery missions.

“Most were unofficial referrals from the FBI or the State Department—a young girl abducted by her Lebanese father amid a custody dispute, or a teenager who had gotten into a car accident over spring break in Costa Rica and was facing jail time," according to Vanity Fair. "During [Michael Taylor's] career, he has completed nearly two dozen such operations.”

The operation, which is sure to be made into movie some day, involved Michael Taylor posing as a musician with large amplifier cases. Michael Taylor and an accomplice checked into a hotel near the airport. They then met with Ghosn at a downtown Tokyo hotel that Ghosn frequently lunched at. There, Ghosn changed clothes and the trio boarded a train back toward the original hotel. Michael Taylor met with the airport terminal manager to explain that they were running late, and gave her a large tip to expedite the security process (the tip was returned before takeoff). Ghosn was hustled through security checkpoints inside one of the amplifier cases and loaded into the cabin of a chartered jet.

From there, they flew predominantly through Russian and Chinese airspace, avoiding the airspace of any country that had an extradition treaty with Japan. The plane landed in Istanbul, and Ghosn quickly boarded a second plane bound for Beirut, where he was greeted by Lebanese President Michel Aoun.

Michael Taylor boarded a commercial flight to Beirut to see the job through. According to the account in Vanity Fair, his involvement was known and he was even recognized at one restaurant where patrons cheered him.

After investigating, Japanese authorities issued a warrant for Michael Taylor and formally asked the United States to arrest him. Sent through diplomatic channels, the request ended with the U.S. Marshals Service, which arrested Michael Taylor and his son, who the Japanese government said was involved, in May.

As Michael Taylor was exhausting his avenues to avoid extradition in the last few weeks, the employees from the company that had operated the aircrafts used in the escape were facing their own justice.

“A Turkish court convicted an official from a private airline and two pilots Wednesday for involvement in former Nissan Motor Co. chairman Carlos Ghosn’s dramatic escape out of Japan in 2019, and sentenced them each to four years and two months in prison," according to the Associated Press. “The court in Istanbul acquitted two other pilots of the charge of ‘illegally smuggling a migrant.’ A flight attendant was acquitted of the charge of failing to report a crime, while the case against a second flight attendant was dismissed.”