Tokyo — Two Americans who helped the former Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn make his spectacular escape from Japan are themselves now facing jail time in the country.
The Tokyo District Court sentenced 60-year-old former special forces soldier Michael Taylor to two years in prison. His 28-year-old son Peter was given a 20-month prison sentence.
Aiding a criminal is punishable by up to three years prison time in Japan. The defence petitioned the court to give the two men, both of whom pleaded guilty, suspended sentences.
Ghosn, the former chief executive of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi French-Japanese carmaker alliance, was arrested in Tokyo on November 19, 2018, on charges including under-reporting his salary, the misuse of company funds and breaking stock exchange regulations.
He was released on bail in April 2019 under strict conditions. However, in December that year, Ghosn left his home in Tokyo and took a bullet train to Osaka. At a hotel there, he hid himself in a large box supposedly containing audio equipment. Holes had been drilled into the crate to allow him to breathe, and the crate was not searched at the airport.
Ghosn, who has French, Lebanese and Brazilian citizenship, was taken out of the country by private jet, arriving first in Turkey before continuing to Lebanon.
On December 31 2019, Ghosn spoke out from Lebanon and castigated Japan in an angry speech in which he denied all the accusations and spoke of a conspiracy against him.
As Japan has no extradition treaty with Lebanon, there was no realistic prospect of Ghosn being tried in Japan, the court found.
The pair who assisted Ghosn’s flight from Japan were arrested in the US state of Massachusetts in May 2020 and extradited to Japan in March this year.
During their trial, which was short by Japanese standards, they apologized for their actions. Ghosn had misled them about the Japanese justice system, they said.
The prosecution countered that they had benefitted financially from arranging the escape. Though the defendants subsequently claimed that the approximately 1.3 million dollars they received from Ghosn had barely covered the cost of the escape operation.
Nevertheless, the court found that the pair had acted on financial motives. The defendants now have two weeks to appeal the verdict.
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