Americans accused of helping Ghosn flee face Tokyo trial

An American father-son duo accused of packing former Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn into an audio equipment case so he could escape trial in Japan will appear in a Tokyo court for the first time Monday.

While Ghosn is an internationally wanted fugitive now living in Lebanon after the 2019 escape, former US Army Green Beret Michael Taylor and his son Peter have been extradited from the United States to Japan and will appear at the Tokyo District Court on Monday afternoon.

The two men face up to three years in prison if convicted of putting together the audacious escape of the one-time auto tycoon, whose 2018 arrest in Tokyo on financial misconduct charges made headlines around the world.

Ghosn was out on bail while awaiting trial on four counts of financial misconduct, which he denies, when he managed to slip past authorities onto a private jet, transit in Turkey and land in Lebanon, which has no extradition treaty with Japan.

The escape was hugely embarrassing for Japanese authorities, and prosecutors have termed it “one of the most brazen and well-orchestrated escape acts in recent history”.

The Taylors, along with a Lebanese national still at large, are suspected of orchestrating the December 2019 escape — including putting Ghosn inside an audio equipment case to get him onto the private jet.

Michael, 60, and 28-year-old Peter fought their extradition to Tokyo claiming they could face torture-like conditions, but they have not commented on their case since arriving in early March.

They could enter pleas later Monday after prosecutors deliver opening remarks.

Tokyo’s Deputy Chief Prosecutor Hiroshi Yamamoto has declined to comment on their arraignment, but local media said both men have admitted wrongdoing during questioning.

– Ghosn still at large –

Public broadcaster NHK has said Peter received 144 million yen ($1.3 million) from the Ghosns for their help.

The Asahi Shimbun daily said the pair spent most of the money on preparations for the escape, including the costs of chartering a private jet, claiming that they were not paid for their help.

Ghosn remains at large in Lebanon, where he was questioned last month by French investigators over a series of alleged financial improprieties.

Among the allegations are improper financial interactions with Renault-Nissan’s distributor in Oman, payments by a Dutch subsidiary to consultants and lavish parties organised at the Palace of Versailles.

The questioning took place with his defence team and a Lebanese prosecutor present. Ghosn was heard as a witness as he would need to be in France to be formally indicted.

Others involved in the Ghosn case have faced legal proceedings, including his former aide at Nissan, Greg Kelly, who is also on trial in Tokyo for his alleged role in underreporting the tycoon’s income.

And a Turkish court has sentenced two pilots and another employee of a small private airline to four years and two months in prison for their role in Ghosn’s escape.

Ghosn switched planes in Turkey on his way to Lebanon, and the three Turks were charged with involvement in a conspiracy to smuggle a migrant.

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