DUBAI: A former US Green Beret, who became famous for planning and executing one of the most daring escape plots in recent history, has accused Japanese authorities of torture — and his own government of failing to do anything to help.
In a special interview with Arab News Japan recorded in Dubai, Michael Taylor, who helped ex-Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn flee Japan hidden inside a musical equipment case in December 2019, said he suffered inhumane treatment while incarcerated in Tokyo.
He said he experienced frostbite, heatstroke, and was denied bathing facilities for several months during his time in solitary confinement at the Tokyo Detention House, having been extradited from the US to stand trial for his role in Ghosn’s escape.
“Seventeen months in solitary confinement. Two showers in a six-and-a-half month period of time. There’s no heat. You get frostbite daily, no air conditioning or ventilation during the summer. People are passing out from heatstroke,” he said.
“So yeah, I would say, and according to the UN, that’s clearly torture in violation of human rights,” he added, claiming that his case was “rigged” and a “political decision.”
Aside from the prison conditions he was subjected to, Taylor said there was no “attorney-client privilege.” In order to speak to his attorneys, he had to write his briefings with prosecutors on a piece of paper labeled as privileged communication.
“However, privileged communication is a farce, because I had to give those papers to the guards who copy them and do whatever they want,” he said.
“Thirty minutes later, the papers get to my lawyers who are sitting on the opposite side of the glass. You’re monitored by a guard and an interpreter there who’s writing everything down. So, you don’t have attorney-client privilege as well.”
Arab News Japan reached out to Japan’s Correction Bureau of the Justice Ministry for a response to Taylor’s allegations, but officials refrained from commenting.
Asked whether the US government did anything to help, Taylor said no — accusing then-US President Donald Trump and then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo of choosing strategic and business interests over the rights of one of their own citizens.
“Trump and Pompeo are the ones that extradited us,” said Taylor. “Trump was beating his chest constantly, saying he protects veterans. And the No. 1 job of the president of the US, of any nation, is to protect their citizens.”
Not so in the case of Taylor and his son, Peter. Both men were arrested in the US in May 2020 and extradited to Japan to stand trial for helping Ghosn escape.
“They helped the Japanese,” said Taylor. “There’s some rumors going on that there was some type of business arrangement made, which was a quid pro quo for Aegis destroyers, Aegis radars for Japan.”
The Aegis Combat System is an American integrated naval weapons system, which uses computers and radars to track and guide weapons to destroy enemy targets. The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force currently operates a fleet of eight Aegis-equipped destroyers, with further expansion on the cards.
Taylor believes the extradition request was looked upon favorably by Washington because Japan purchased the Aegis military equipment from the US.
“It’s just amazing that we get extradited for what legal scholars say is not a violation of law whatsoever,” he said.
“Yet three Japanese citizens from Takata airbag, who are responsible for the death of 29 human beings, didn’t get extradited when they were indicted in federal court in Michigan back in December of 2016. Where’s that logic?”
Taylor was referring to a scandal involving the Japanese automotive parts company Takata. Ten automakers in the US recalled hundreds of thousands of cars equipped with potentially faulty airbags manufactured by the firm.
The US charged three Takata executives over the scandal in 2017, but failed to order their extradition. The firm instead agreed to pay $1 billion to resolve the investigation. At least 16 deaths were formally linked to the defective airbags.
Despite the US government’s willingness to extradite him and his son to Japan, Taylor said he believes in karma, and was therefore pleased to see Trump recently indicted in Georgia for his alleged role in a criminal conspiracy to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.
Among the people Taylor slammed in his exclusive interview with Arab News Japan was Ghosn himself, who arguably owes his freedom to the former Green Beret.
Ghosn was arrested in Japan in 2018 on charges of underreporting income and other corporate crimes, which he has denied. He now resides in Beirut, where Lebanese authorities refuse to extradite their citizens and instead opt for a local trial.
Kenji Yamada, Japan’s state minister for foreign affairs, told Arab News Japan on Thursday he had called on Lebanese authorities to extradite Ghosn so he could stand trial in Tokyo.
Japanese leaders have repeatedly said that Ghosn fled Japan illegally and should return to face justice in a Japanese court.
Meanwhile, Taylor claims he and his son have been left to deal with their own substantial legal fees.
“My legal fees are still outstanding and they’re very high,” he said. “Anytime you’re dealing with legal fees on both sides of an ocean like that, both in the US and in Japan, your legal fees end up tallying up quite high.”
Taylor, however, refused to confirm reports about the payment he was promised from Ghosn for helping him to escape from Japan. According to several media reports, Japanese prosecutors said the Taylors received $1.3 million for their services and another $500,000 for legal fees.
Asked whether he thought Ghosn was a victim or a villain in his lawsuit with Nissan, Taylor suggested that the facts should speak for themselves.
“My whole involvement with this was, as it was presented to me, that there is a man over there being tortured to the point where he can’t even, according to the court, talk to his wife,” said Taylor.
“Were they trying to exacerbate a divorce to break up a family? I don’t understand that. Who does that? What country does that? What civilized nation does that?”
Taylor spoke to Arab News Japan ahead of the release of a new, four-part documentary series, due to air on Apple TV on Aug. 25, which is billed as the first program about Ghosn’s case to feature the Taylors’ perspective.
The series, “Wanted: The Escape of Carlos Ghosn,” will share “the full story” about Ghosn and his climb to the top of the corporate ladder, his arrest, and escape. Ghosn himself will also tell his side of the story.
Inspired by the book “Boundless,” by Wall Street Journal reporters Nick Kostov and Sean McLain, the series includes exclusive interviews and footage with the prime players who lived in the Ghosn orbit.
Since his release Taylor has been busy turning his fortunes around. He is currently working for a new company called “Vitamin 1,” which, he says, produces a “healthy hydration drink full of vitamins and electrolytes and no sugar.”
Taylor says he plans to start producing the beverage in Dubai with the UAE’s National Food Company. “I look forward to serving the people of the United Arab Emirates,” he added.