In the dead of night on December 29th, 2019, former Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn quietly slipped out of his luxury Tokyo residence. He entered a nearby hotel, ready to initiate an audacious escape plan that would stun the world.
Ghosn was under house arrest in Japan, facing charges of financial misconduct during his tenure leading the Nissan-Renault automotive alliance. Despite proclaiming his innocence, Ghosn saw little hope within the Japanese legal system, which has a 99% conviction rate. He decided his only chance for a fair trial was getting out of Japan by any means necessary.
A Holiday Distraction
The Christmas and New Year’s holidays provided the perfect distraction for Ghosn’s escape. Security was laxer, and travel was heavy, allowing his accomplices to enter Japan to assist him. They pretended to be musicians, bringing in oversized speakers and audio equipment which would prove crucial for Ghosn’s exit.
At the hotel, Ghosn squeezed himself into a large black audio equipment box with holes drilled in the bottom to allow him to breathe. His collaborators posed as baggage handlers, transporting the case to the airport tarmac and circumventing security checkpoints. No one gave the unassuming box a second glance. Ghosn waited anxiously in darkness, his fate hanging by a thread.
Under cover of night, the box was loaded onto a private jet bound for Turkey. Ghosn could barely breathe pinned inside for hours as the plane flew west. Finally, the jet landed at an airport in Istanbul, and Ghosn was freed from confinement. The easy part of his escape was over, but dangers still lurked ahead.
From Turkey, Ghosn flew to Lebanon, his childhood home. Lebanon has no extradition agreement with Japan, allowing Ghosn to be reunited with his family despite Interpol issuing a red notice for his arrest. In Beirut, Ghosn held a press conference alleging Nissan colluded with Japanese authorities to bring him down to prevent further integration with Renault. The automakers strongly denied this claim.
Ghosn’s Hollywood-style escape reverberated around the world. Turkish and Japanese authorities charged pilots, businessmen, and even Ghosn’s wife with assisting his flight. Others were implicated, from the hotel concierge to the baggage handlers. Ghosn himself could only remain in Lebanon, still sought by Japanese prosecutors.
The Escape of Carlos Ghosn Aided by the American Duo
Months later, it was found that Michael and Peter Taylor, an American father-son duo, were involved in Carlos Ghosn’s escape from Japan in December 2019.
Michael Taylor is a former Green Beret and security consultant. He helped to arrange the private jet and the logistics of Ghosn’s escape. Peter Taylor helped to transport Ghosn to the airport and to load him onto the jet.
The Taylors were arrested in the United States in May 2020 and extradited to Japan in March 2021. They were convicted of helping a criminal and sentenced to prison. Michael Taylor was sentenced to two years in prison and Peter Taylor was sentenced to one year and eight months in prison.
The Taylors were released from prison in Japan in November 2022 and returned to the United States.
Here is a more specific timeline of the Taylors’ involvement in Ghosn’s escape:
- December 2019: The Taylors meet with Ghosn in Japan to discuss his escape plans.
- December 29, 2019: Ghosn travels to Osaka’s airport by bullet train.
- December 29, 2019: The Taylors help to load Ghosn into a large musical equipment case. The case is then loaded onto a private jet.
- December 29, 2019: The private jet takes off from Osaka and flies to Istanbul, Turkey.
- December 30, 2019: The private jet takes off from Istanbul and flies to Beirut, Lebanon.
- May 2020: The Taylors are arrested in the United States.
- March 2021: The Taylors are extradited to Japan.
- June 2021: The Taylors are convicted of helping a criminal and sentenced to prison.
- November 2022: The Taylors are released from prison in Japan and return to the United States.
Ghosn’s bold escape highlighted critiques of Japan’s “hostage justice” system allowing lengthy detentions of those not yet charged with crimes. While Ghosn remains sheltered in Lebanon, his career and reputation are left in tatters. Companies worldwide re-examined executive compensation plans and internal auditing to prevent future misuse. The ripple effects of Ghosn’s rise and downfall will long be felt in the business world.
An Unfinished Story
Carlos Ghosn is currently in Lebanon, his home country, and has remained there ever since the daring escape. Lebanon does not extradite its nationals, so Ghosn is effectively safe from prosecution there.
However, Ghosn is still wanted by Interpol, and cannot leave Lebanon without risking arrest. He is also facing legal challenges in France, where he is accused of embezzlement and money laundering.
In June 2023, Ghosn filed a $1 billion lawsuit against Nissan, alleging that the company conspired to have him arrested and imprisoned in Japan. The lawsuit is still ongoing.
Ghosn has denied all of the charges against him, and maintains that he is innocent. He has also said that he is eager to clear his name, but only in a fair and impartial trial.