CHICAGO: Michael Taylor, the former US Army Green Beret who engineered and executed the daring escape from Japan of fraud-accused former Nissan head Carlos Ghosn, says he was “betrayed” by his client.
Taylor and his son Peter, who consulted for Ghosn on Search Engine Optimization, were both charged and convicted of aiding Ghosn’s December 2019 escape from Tokyo to Lebanon, via Istanbul, in a large music box.
Taylor made the comments during an appearance Wednesday, Sept. 27, on the Ray Hanania Radio Show, hosted by the US Arab Radio Network and sponsored by Arab News.
Taylor spent two years in prison while Peter served 18 months, claiming their conditions of incarceration were the equivalent of “torture.”
Taylor claimed Ghosn never reached out to him and his son while they were in the Japanese prison. He added that he also felt betrayed by the US government and former President Donald Trump.
“Yes. We were definitely betrayed. My poor son Peter had nothing to do with the operation itself. He wasn’t even in the country when I pulled Carlos Ghosn out of Japan. He, by coincidence, happened to be there because he had seen Carlos before doing Search Engine Optimization work for him, boosting up his good articles and pushing down the bad ones. So, yeah, we were definitely betrayed. There is no issue about that,” Taylor said when asked if Ghosn had lived up to his promises.
“But we were also betrayed by the Trump administration, by President (Donald) Trump and (former US Secretary of State) Mike Pompeo. This was not a crime. However, if there is business involved, and major defense contractors, you know, people start finding excuses to make things happen and go along with it and have the US Attorney (General) push a little bit harder than normal, and have the State Department suck it up to the Japanese, and all the lobbyists are getting involved.
“And none of the politicians want to step up and do anything including like your own state senators, like Elizabeth Warren and (Ed) Markey. They didn’t want to get involved. Well, you know some of the interesting aspects are that the Japanese spend $138 million a year on lobbyists inside the Beltway.”
Ghosn, who now lives in Beirut, was arrested in Japan in 2018 on charges of underreporting income and other corporate crimes, which he has denied. Lebanon’s authorities refuse to extradite their citizens and instead have opted for a local trial that began in early September.
But while Ghosn, a multimillionaire, has enjoyed freedom in Beirut over nearly four years, Taylor said Ghosn never contacted him either to express gratitude for his help, sympathy for the imprisonment, or to provide assistance with his mounting legal debt.
“No ... and Peter wasn’t contacted either (by Ghosn). However, and Peter went to Lebanon, and he wasn’t contacted. Greg Kelly did reach out to us, he’s just checking on us to see how we were doing, mentally and physically, which was really, really kind of him and shows what a gentleman he is,” Taylor told Arab News when asked if Ghosn ever reached out to them during the trial or while they were imprisoned.
Greg Kelly is a former Nissan executive who was convicted in 2022 for helping Ghosn contravene Japan’s pay disclosure laws, and sentenced to six months in jail, suspended for three years.
Taylor said he still holds out hope Ghosn will live up to the terms of an undisclosed financial agreement for his services, and possibly cover his outstanding legal bills of more than $1 million.
But Taylor said he sold the rights to his story to MGM which is preparing to make a movie with actor Sam Rockwell playing him and Javier Bardem portraying Ghosn. Whether he sees money from the movie depends on its success, he said. Both Rockwell and Bardem won Oscars for Best Supporting Actor roles in separate films — Bardem in “No Country for Old Men” (2008) and Rockwell in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” (2017).
“Well, right now, there is an agreement in place to pay certain amounts, but that agreement is way too long. I am out of pocket $842,000 for legal fees. That is just what I have spent. I haven’t gotten that back yet. That is my first priority to get that back first,” Taylor said.
“Yes, I did get some renumeration. However, I still have well over a million dollars outstanding in legal fees that I owe.”
Taylor declined to detail how much Ghosn agreed to pay him: “I don’t want to go into all of the details. But if I saved you, Ray, or if I saved (attorney) Dr. (William) Cleary, and we had an agreement beforehand that if there are legal fees you’re paying for them, wouldn’t you feel responsible to pay them?”
Ghosn described a four-part Apple+ TV series as “interesting” but also “unfortunate” for failing to tell the “whole story.” He seemed especially perturbed by the fact that during an interview in the documentary, Ghosn describes himself as “the victim,” and made no mention of the Taylors’ fate.
“Mind you, Carlos barely did any time compared to us. My son Peter did 13-and-a-half months in solitary confinement and I did 17 months in solitary confinement. And during that time, six and one-half months, I was only allowed to take two showers. You sit on the floor. The lights are on 24 hours a day seven days a week, and nothing. You get no help. You get no nothing. And there is no heat in the wintertime. So you get frostbite on your hands and your feet. In the summertime people are constantly getting heatstroke and are being yanked out of there.”
“The United Nations declares that 15 consecutive days or more of solitary confinement is considered torture. Seventeen months is a lot longer than 15 days. So that is definitely torture. You are allowed very little communications as well. You are only allowed four letters a month to write.”
Taylor seemed to hold back his deepest feelings, acknowledging he remains hopeful Ghosn lives up to what he views as broken promises.
“You know Ray, that’s one of those questions where I would say life has a lot of strange twists and turns and one never knows what could happen in the near future,” Taylor said when asked if he was trying to hold back harsher criticism of Ghosn for his alleged betrayal.
Asked if he would testify in Ghosn’s defense if he were somehow forced to face charges outside of Lebanon, Taylor said: “Would you testify in Ghosn’s defense?”
“I wouldn’t have anything to say in his defense. Remember, in his own words, he is the victim. Nobody else. He is the victim. He is the victim,” Taylor stressed.
Taylor said that he was introduced to Ghosn by friends who suggested he help the wealthy and high-profile former Nissan CEO. He said his sister-in-law is a second cousin to Ghosn.
Also appearing on the radio show to argue that Taylor was falsely charged, was Dr. William Cleary, an American who has spent more than 30 years practicing law in Japan, and who tried unsuccessfully to convince federal prosecutors that the Taylors did not commit any crimes.
The Ray Hanania Radio Show is broadcast every Wednesday in Detroit on WNZK AM 690 radio and in Washington D.C. on WDMV AM 700 on the US Arab Radio Network.
You can listen to the radio show’s podcast by visiting ArabNews.com/rayradioshow.