Exclusive: Former Green Beret Mike Taylor implicated for smuggling Nissan CEO out of Japan

Jack Murphy
January 06, 2020 - 4:04 pm
Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn speaks during the beginning of the New York International Auto Show's press day at the Javits Center on March 23, 2016 in New York, NY.

Getty Images

Carlos Ghosn stood accused in Japan of mishandling company assets while CEO of Nissan, as well as under-reporting his own earnings. Ghosn, who holds citizenship in France, Brazil, and Lebanon, was on house arrest pending his trial when he suddenly skipped bond. While details are still murky, it has been reported that he left his home unaccompanied and boarded a bullet train from Tokyo to Osaka on the night of December 29th. Once there, he appears to have taken a taxi and stayed in a hotel near Kensai airport. Like something straight out of a spy thriller, Ghosn was then closed into an audio equipment case that had air holes drilled into it and then loaded onto a private jet. Japan, like America, has very different regulations for private jets and baggage is not normally searched.

Ghosn touched down hours later in Istanbul, Turkey switched planes and flew on to Beirut, Lebanon for a successful escape from custody. First reported by the Wall Street Journal, the escape is said to have been orchestrated by former U.S. Special Forces soldier Michael Taylor.

"I was on the first MTT [Mobile Training Team] to Lebanon in 1983," Taylor told Connecting Vets when asked about his connections to that particular country.

While Taylor declined to speak on the record about the extraction of Ghosn from Japan and whether or not he was involved, he was of the opinion that the former Nissan CEO had received a bum rap by a Japanese justice system that he considers to be draconian.

Ghosn was considered by some to be one of the most influential businessmen in Asia and had been credited with saving Nissan from bankruptcy.

Ghosn was also the CEO of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance, and according to Taylor, this rustled some jimmies in the corporate world.

"He wanted Renault to take it over," Taylor said, "and the Japanese said hell no." Although such a corporate take over would not be illegal, Taylor said that it became a point of nationalistic pride as many did not want to see a Japanese company owned by foreigners. "The corporation went straight to prosecutors and made it illegal because they don't want a French company taking over," he said.

Taylor has a colorful past himself with various stories in the media over the years saying he was an undercover agent for the U.S. government while others point toward several federal indictments he was named in. One of those indictments alleged bid-rigging and kickbacks for a contract to support Kandak commandos in Afghanistan. The indictment also named another Special Forces soldier as a co-conspirator, Lt. Col. David Young, who served at Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force- Afghanistan (CJSOTF-A) as the director for Afghan national security force partnering. Taylor described it as a nonsense case saying that there were only two bids for the contract and the other was two pages long and technically unacceptable. “We didn't have a inside track,” he insisted.

The second indictment alleges that Taylor and others bribed an FBI agent to help get him out of the first indictment in exchange for a cut of other pending defense contracts. Taylor said that FBI agent Robert Lustyik asked him for a theoretical price quote for a salary he should be making at a job with a private windmill company he was considering. Taylor felt Lustyik should make 250 thousand dollars a year. According to Taylor, this was the basis of the bribery indictment, a charge which he denies. 

Then the prosecutors, "just say plead guilty to any two charges and we'll give you two million back," Taylor said, of the five million dollars that were confiscated from him.

After waiting 14 months in isolation while his trial was pending, he took the plea deal and was sentenced to 24 months in prison accounting for time served.

Regarding the Goshn case, Taylor said, "the bottom line is this guy was a damn hostage that's what it was. If he popped out of North Korea or China it would be a totally different narrative."

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Reach Jack Murphy: jack@connectingvets.com or @JackMurphyRGR.