A couple of Americans with names matching private security contractors, including a former US Green Beret who has served time behind bars, accompanied fugitive Carlos Ghosn out of Japan while he was awaiting trial for financial crimes, according to a new report.
Ghosn — who stunned the world with his daring escape from Japanese prosecutors this week — flew out of Japan on a private jet whose only other passengers were two men who identified themselves using US passports, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The passports identified the men as Michael Taylor and George Antoine Zayek, the Journal said. Michael L. Taylor is also the name of an ex-Green Beret who helped the New York Times extract reporter David Rohde from Taliban captivity in Afghanistan in 2009.
Taylor, the former head of American International Security Corp., has also spent time in prison after pleading guilty to wire fraud tied to allegations that he paid kickbacks for $54 million in Defense Department contracts.
A person by the name of George Zayek has served as a security employee at companies linked to Taylor, according to job-networking websites reviewed by the paper.
Ghosn was under house arrest, including 24-hour surveillance, at the time of his escape. The ex-Nissan chief, who was accused of using the Japanese car-maker to enrich himself, had also had his passports removed by the Japanese judicial system.
Friday’s report, which cited sources familiar with a Turkish probe into the 65-year-old’s getaway, said he appears to have been sneaked on the plane in a black container that is often used for audio equipment. The apparently empty container was later discovered on the aircraft by Turkey-based aircraft operator MNG Jet Havacilik AS.
Reports earlier this week said the former Nissan chairman had been carted out of his Tokyo home in a musical instrument case by a group of mercenaries in a Hollywood-style plot allegedly orchestrated by his wife from the US.
Ghosn has denied he had any help fleeing Japan, where he claimed he was being “held hostage by a rigged Japanese judicial system.”
Taylor and Zayek, who could not be immediately reached for comment, were the only passengers on the manifest of the flight that ferried Ghosn from Japan’s Kansai International Airport, near Osaka, to Istanbul’s Atatürk Airport, the paper said.
The two men then traveled to a different Istanbul airport, where they hopped on a commercial flight from to Beirut, the publication said, citing people familiar with the probe into Ghosn’s stunning escape.
Separately, the same Turkish jet company that found the black box that allegedly hid Ghosn filed a criminal complaint against a rogue employee whom it accused of falsifying documents for two planes that allegedly helped Ghosn get to Beirut, where he is not expected to be extradited.
The employee “confirmed that he acted in his individual capacity, without the knowledge or the authorization of the management of MNG Jet,” the company said in a statement.