How much does it cost to be spirited out of Japan in a specially converted musical equipment case?
At least $862,000, since you are asking.
That is the amount of money allegedly transferred by the fugitive former Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn to a company controlled by the sons of Mike Taylor, 59, the former U.S. Green Beret who is in custody in Massachusetts for his alleged role in helping the millionaire executive flee Japan disguised as a double bass.
However, sources told the Financial Times, which reported on new court documents revealing the amount Wednesday, that this may have just been a down payment, and that the full cost of the operation is likely to have been significantly higher.
Ghosn’s escape was allegedly facilitated by a team of veteran special-forces operatives coordinated by Taylor. They posed as a classical-music group, and packed music-loving Ghosn, who led Nissan for 20 years prior to his 2018 arrest, into one of their musical equipment cases at the end of a fake private concert at his Tokyo home, where he was residing on house arrest while on bail.
Ghosn, secreted inside his box, then took a bullet train ride across Japan followed by two private jet flights to get to his native Lebanon, where he is now Beirut’s most notorious scofflaw. Four Turkish private-jet pilots and an airline manager are on trial in Turkey for their role in the James Bond-style caper.
Ghosn fled while awaiting trial on charges of financial misconduct but has argued that he was the victim of an elaborate setup by other Nissan executives and the Japanese government, who were concerned by his attempts to merge Nissan with French carmaker Renault.
In June, Bloomberg News published a report based on a chain of emails that appeared to lend weight to Ghosn’s version of events. Nissan has described the emails as fake.
The FT reports the new court documents allege two wire transfers were made last October from a Ghosn-controlled account in Paris to Promote Fox, a company that was managed by Peter Taylor and his brother, Oliver, both sons of Mike Taylor.
Mike and Peter Taylor were arrested in Boston in May and are fighting extradition to Japan.
U.S. prosecutors presented the money transfer evidence Tuesday to argue that the Taylors are flight risks and should continue to be detained. Prosecutors previously argued that they were “not just capable of fleeing while on bond” but are “expert on the subject.”
Mike Taylor has a checkered background: As a member of the U.S. Army’s elite Green Berets, he was trained in “special atomic demolition munition,” which would have involved detonating portable nuclear weapons in the event of a Soviet invasion of Western Europe.
After leaving military service, he became a respected hostage negotiator, and through his security company trained commandos, guarded infrastructure in southern Iraq, and protected officials investigating mass graves. But he also served time in prison after he was found to have attempted to bribe federal agents, pleading guilty to one count of violating procurement laws and one count of wire fraud. He was sentenced to 24 months in prison but was released after 14 months.
In pleadings for clemency in that case, Taylor said he had worked as an undercover agent helping U.S. authorities bust drug and counterfeiting operations in Lebanon.
In what appears to be his only public comment on the Ghosn case, Taylor was interviewed by a news site for U.S. military veterans, Connecting Vets, which quoted him as saying, “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.”