The US father-son duo accused of masterminding Ghosn’s Japan escape

NEW YORK: The American men accused of smuggling former Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn out of Japan are a former US special forces operative who spent time in prison and his football-playing son.

On the surface, Michael Taylor, 59, and Peter Taylor, 27, appeared to be living a quintessential American middle-class life in the small, wealthy town of Harvard, Massachusetts.

The home of Michael and Peter Taylor is viewed in Harvard, Massachusetts
The home of Michael and Peter Taylor is viewed in Harvard, Massachusetts. (AFP/Joseph Prezioso)

But from there, US prosecutors say, the pair drew on the elder Taylor’s experience as an ex-Green Beret to plot a brazen escape worthy of a Hollywood movie.

Ghosn is now living as a fugitive in Lebanon after he absconded on Dec 29, 2019 while awaiting trial on alleged financial crimes.

Michael Taylor’s relationship with the country stretches back 40 years.

Taylor was deployed to Beirut as a member of America’s special forces in the early 1980s, according to US media.

He received an honorable discharge in 1983 and then became a private security consultant, the Boston Globe reported, carrying out work across the Middle East.

Taylor learnt Arabic and married a Lebanese woman.

He was often hired to help people get out of high-risk situations such as abductions and worked as an undercover informant for federal investigators, the Globe reported in January.

The New York Times said it hired Taylor to help rescue its then reporter David Rohde, who was kidnapped by militants in Afghanistan and held for seven months in Pakistan’s tribal areas.

Rohde escaped on his own in June 2009.

Taylor’s career has courted trouble along the way.

In the late 1990s he pleaded guilty to planting drugs in the car of a client’s estranged wife, according to a local media report.

He was also charged with wiretapping offences in relation to illegal activity while working undercover, the Boston Globe has reported.

In 2011, he was investigated for paying kickbacks to obtain a series of contracts from the Department of Defense worth approximately US$54 million.

He pleaded guilty to wire fraud and was sentenced in 2015 to two years in jail, according to the Justice Department.

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Away from his murky professional dealings, Taylor looked to be living a blissful suburban existence on the outskirts of Boston.

Pictures taken by an AFP photographer on Wednesday showed Michael and Peter Taylor’s home situated in picturesque woodland, the garden’s lawn perfectly manicured.

The Boston Globe reported that Taylor senior played softball and from 2008 spent three years coaching American football at Massachusetts’ prestigious Lawrence Academy school.

Peter is a former player for the school’s football team, according to the paper.

Their alleged involvement in Ghosn’s escape was first reported by the Wall Street Journal in January.

They were arrested early on Wednesday, as the younger Taylor was preparing to travel to Lebanon.

According to prosecutors, the Taylors and Lebanese man George-Antoine Zayek helped Ghosn hide inside a large music audio equipment case, which they then loaded onto a private jet.

Between July and December 2019, Peter Taylor made multiple trips to Japan and met Ghosn at least seven times, prosecutors say.