Americans Who Helped Nissan Boss Ghosn to Flee Will Be Extradited

Two Americans who smuggled the famous auto executive halfway around the world in a box will now face justice in Japan. 

Former Nissan Motor Co. Chairman Carlos Ghosn holds a press conference at the Maronite Christian Holy Spirit University of Kaslik on Sept. 29, 2020. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

BOSTON (CN) — Two Americans who helped celebrity auto executive Carlos Ghosn flee Japan in order to escape prosecution for financial crimes will be extradited to that country, the First Circuit ruled Thursday. 

Ghosn escaped in December 2019 while out on bail in an operation reminiscent of an action movie. Michael Taylor, a former U.S. Army Special Forces soldier, snuck Ghosn out of the country on a private jet in a box labeled as audio equipment. The box slipped through customs unchecked because it was too large to fit into an x-ray machine. 

The flight landed in Istanbul, and less than an hour later Ghosn was on another plane to Lebanon, which doesn’t have an extradition treaty with Japan. The Turkish government eventually charged seven people with aiding in the escape by falsifying passenger records and other crimes. 

A federal judge in Boston refused to block the extradition of Taylor and his son Peter in September and the First Circuit denied an emergency motion for a stay.  

The Taylors “have failed to demonstrate a likelihood of success on the merits and, more generally, have failed to demonstrate that a stay is in order,” the court said in a brief unsigned order. 

The Taylors were arrested in May. Their lawyers have never denied that they assisted Ghosn and instead have argued that their actions don’t fit within Japanese law on bail-jumping. 

The Brazilian-born Ghosn, who is a citizen of Lebanon and France, served as CEO of Nissan, Renault and Michelin North America and was chairman of Mitsubishi Motors. 

He was ranked the third most respected business leader in the world in 2004 and 2005 in a survey conducted by Financial Times and PricewaterhouseCoopers. Fortune named him Asia Businessman of the Year in 2002 and he was depicted in popular Japanese comic books. 

Things went south in November 2018 when Ghosn was arrested at Tokyo International Airport on charges of underreporting his salary and misusing company assets. Among other things, Ghosn was accused of paying himself $8 million without telling the Nissan board of directors and shifting to Nissan a $16.6 million personal loss during the 2008 financial crisis. 

In September 2019, Ghosn agreed to pay a $1 million fine to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to settle claims that he failed to disclose more than $140 million in pay from Nissan. 

In August 2020, Ghosn’s residence in Lebanon was damaged in the massive Beirut explosion. 

Michael Taylor, the ex-Green Beret, ran a private security business that received unofficial referrals from the State Department and the FBI. In 2012, he was accused of winning a U.S. military contract to train Afghan soldiers by using confidential information from an American officer and then asking a friend who was an FBI agent to quash the investigation. 

The government seized $5 million from his company’s bank account and he spent 14 months in jail. 

But Taylor had a long history before that. In 1999, he pleaded guilty to planting marijuana in the car of a client’s estranged wife, leading to her arrest, according to the Boston Herald. Later, Taylor resigned as football coach at Lawrence Academy in Massachusetts after being accused of improperly paying tuition for team recruits.  

According to prosecutors, Ghosn wired more than $860,000 to a company linked to Peter Taylor in October 2019 and Ghosn’s son also made almost $500,000 in cryptocurrency payments to Peter Taylor. 

As for Ghosn, who is fluent in four languages (but not Japanese), he maintains his innocence and claims that he snuck out of Japan to avoid “injustice and political persecution.” 

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