Japan prosecutors seek jail for Ghosn escape accomplices

Japanese prosecutors said Friday they are seeking jail sentences of nearly three years for an American father-son duo who admit helping former Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn jump bail and flee Japan.

Former special forces operative Michael Taylor and his son Peter were extradited after their arrest last year in the United States for helping smuggle Ghosn onto a private jet in an audio equipment case.

Ghosn had led Nissan for nearly two decades, earning celebrity status as a rare foreign executive to thrive in Japan — until he was arrested in 2018 on allegations of financial crimes, which he denies.

At a Tokyo court, public prosecutors said they were seeking a sentence of two years, 10 months for Michael, and two years, six months for Peter, for their role in Ghosn’s audacious December 2019 escape.

Prosecutor Ryozo Kitajima called it a “sophisticated and bold crime”. The verdict will follow later this month.

The Taylors, both dressed in smart jackets and shirts with no tie, listened to an English translation of Kitajima’s comments through headphones.

Ropes were tied around their waists and each man was flanked by guards who unlocked their handcuffs when they sat down in the dock.

“I’m remorseful, and I’m sorry,” 60-year-old Michael Taylor told the court in a tearful voice, adding: “It wasn’t for money.”

According to the prosecution, the Ghosn family paid the Taylors more than $860,000 for preparation and logistical costs, and $500,000 in cryptocurrency for lawyers’ fees.

The Taylors’ defence lawyers said a suspended sentence was appropriate given their remorse, and argued that the pair’s 10-month detention in the United States before extradition should be considered in sentencing.

– International fugitive –

“After my experience in the Japanese judicial system, my impression has changed a lot,” said Peter Taylor, 28.

“I apologise to the people of Japan, and I deeply regret my action.”

Both men bowed deeply to the judge after speaking.

Ghosn was on bail while awaiting trial on four counts of financial misconduct when he fled, transiting in Turkey before arriving in Lebanon, which has no extradition agreement with Japan.

The escape of the former auto tycoon, who remains an international fugitive in Lebanon, was hugely embarrassing for Japanese authorities.

US prosecutors called it “one of the most brazen and well-orchestrated escape acts in recent history”.

The Taylors, who arrived in Tokyo in March, admitted to helping orchestrate Ghosn’s flight at their first court hearing last month, facing a maximum of three years in jail each.

At that hearing, prosecutors described the almost-cinematic details of the operation — including that Ghosn was hidden in a large case with air holes drilled into it to slip past security at an airport.

A third man, identified as George Antoine Zayek, is also accused of involvement in the escape but remains at large.

Ghosn was questioned in May by French investigators in Lebanon over a series of alleged financial improprieties.

His former Nissan aide Greg Kelly is on trial in Tokyo over allegations he helped underreport Ghosn’s salary. A verdict in his case is expected later this year.

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