Americans who helped Carlos Ghosn flee Japan sentenced to prison

The American father and son who orchestrated Carlos Ghosn’s elaborate escape from Japan in an audio equipment box and private jet have been sentenced by a Tokyo court to two years and 20 months in prison, respectively.

The punishment handed down to Michael Taylor, a 60-year-old former Green Beret, and his son Peter, 28, followed their extradition from the US this year.

The Taylors pleaded guilty during their first appearance before a three-judge panel in the Tokyo District Court last month. They had faced up to three years in prison and at one point tried to argue that the act of assisting a person to “jump bail” was not technically a crime in one reading of the Japanese criminal code.

Lawyers for Michael had also argued that the Americans had understood they were rehearsing for a future event in the days leading up to Ghosn’s dramatic escape. In the event, the former head of the Renault-Nissan alliance made a last-minute decision to escape immediately.

Hideo Nirei, the lead judge in the case, said “both defendants pulled off an unprecedented escape to overseas”.

“Based on the gravity of the case and the roles of both individuals, a prison sentence cannot be avoided,” he added.

The sentence was in line with what legal experts had predicted.

The Taylors can appeal the ruling within two weeks.

The sentencing highlighted the shockwaves that continue to reverberate since Ghosn’s arrest on financial misconduct charges in late 2018. The former automotive executive was in Tokyo on bail and had been due to stand trial in 2020.

But he fled to Lebanon in December 2019, turning one of the world’s most charismatic business leaders into an international fugitive and triggering the arrests of various people who assisted in the escape.

Nirei said Ghosn had no intention of returning to Japan and there was no prospect of the former executive standing trial in Tokyo. “The consequences of this case are very large,” he said.

The Taylors were arrested in the US last year and mounted a sustained campaign to avoid extradition. Since their arrival in Tokyo, they have been awaiting trial at the same Kosuge detention centre on the outskirts of Tokyo, where Ghosn spent the first 108 days after his arrest. 

The American father and son spent 10 months in US custody before their extradition, but Nirei said that period should be treated separately. The court determined that Michael played the “leading role” in the plot, while Peter’s role was smaller but still “imperative” in pulling off Ghosn’s escape. 

Michael said in previous testimony that he “felt sympathy” for Ghosn after hearing how the executive had been treated by Japanese authorities after his arrest.

Peter said he participated because his godmother was a relative of the former Nissan chair. But the judge said the family relationship was distant and concluded that the Taylors’ main motive was financial. Ghosn made $862,500 in wire payments to a company managed by Peter, half of which was used to cover the private jet fees.

Ghosn remains in Lebanon and claims his daring escape was an attempt to “flee injustice”. The former executive denies all charges against him and is the subject of an international arrest warrant issued by Japan, on which Lebanon has yet to act.

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