Airport CCTV pictures have emerged of the two men accused of helping fugitive businessman Carlos Ghosn escape house arrest in Japan and flee to Beirut.
Michael Taylor, a former US Green Beret, and George Antoine Zayek, a former member of a Christian militia in Lebanon, were caught on camera at Istanbul airport as Ghosn changed planes en route to his final destination.
Turkish prosecutors say Taylor and Zayek accompanied the 65-year-old former Nissan boss on the first leg of his journey from Osaka to Ataturk Airport, a smaller airfield in the Turkish capital, on a private jet.
They claim Ghosn changed aircraft on foot before taking a second private plane to Beirut, while his accomplices went across town to Istanbul’s main airport.
Taylor and Zayek then checked in and went through security, where the CCTV images were taken, before boarding a separate commercial flight to Beirut.
Turkey has arrested five people as part of its investigation into the escape, including employees of MNG, the private jet firm used by Ghosn.
The firm says its aircraft were used illegally in the escape and has filed a criminal complaint.
Taylor, who used to be a U.S. Special Forces counter-terrorism specialist, is now a private security contractor who has protected powerful people and companies, as well as secretly helping the U.S. government.
The 59-year-old has previously rescued hostages and is said to be well known in the private security contractor world.
Taylor’s company, American International Security Corp., was once hired by the New York Times to help rescue one of its reporters, David Rohde, after he was kidnapped by the Taliban in Afghanistan.
The reporter was held in Pakistan for seven months before managing to escape himself in 2009.
Taylor also served a 14-month prison sentence in Utah in 2012 after pleading guilty to wire fraud in a multimillion-dollar military fraud scheme.
He was arrested after allegedly calling an FBI agent and asking him to stop a federal investigation into his security company.
Taylor was being investigated over a bid-rigging scheme to get $54 million Defense Department contracts.
Taylor, who denied any wrongdoing and claimed he was a legitimate businessman, took a plea deal.
When he was released from prison in 2015, the government gave him back the $2 million they had seized from him.
Taylor made headlines last week when it emerged he had been hired to help Ghosn flee Japan where the ex-Nissan boss was awaiting trial on multiple counts of financial misconduct.
The security contractor is believed to have been on the private plane that flew out of Japan with Ghosn hidden in the music case.
His partner in the operation was Lebanese-born George-Antoine Zayek, who was a member of a a Christian militia in his home country during the 1980s, the Wall Street Journal reports.
Zayek has previously held positions in security firms linked to Taylor.
Months of planning went into plotting the ex-CEO’s bid for freedom, that saw lax airport security exploited as well as a route through Russia used to aid a smooth passage to Lebanon.
Members of the team made more than 20 trips to Japan and surveyed at least 10 airports before noticing a security loophole at the terminal reserved for private jets at Osaka.
As a result Ghosn was able to launch a 300-mile dash from Tokyo to Osaka on board a bullet train before being smuggled on to a private plane hidden in a large crate used to carry speakers with small holes drilled in the bottom so that he could breathe.
A jet then carefully traveled though Russian airspace for as much of its 12-hour journey as possible to avoid South Korea, which has an extradition treaty with Japan, China, Mongolia, and Kazakhstan.
Ghosn was reportedly wearing a hat and a surgical mask when he was smuggled out of his home in Tokyo and onto a bullet train to Osaka.
Japanese authorities seemed to have no idea Ghosn was no longer in the country, and the Bombardier jet landed in Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport at around 5.30am local time on December 30.
He changed planes in Turkey to avoid arousing suspicion as a direct flight from Osaka to Beirut could have been flagged to authorities.
Taylor did not travel to Beirut with Ghosn. The former Green Beret has close ties to Lebanon because his wife is originally from there. Two of his sons are also believed to now live in Lebanon.
Ghosn claims he was forced to flee Japan to escape a ‘plot’ against him, which he claims was hatched when he planned to sell part of Nissan to partner Renault.
He claims he was denied justice in Japan, where the conviction rate is above 99 per cent, and instead intends to seek justice in Lebanon.
The former executive is currently holed up at a property in the city with wife Carole.