American father and son: NPR
TOKYO – A Tokyo court has sentenced to prison terms the American father and son accused of helping former Nissan president Carlos Ghosn escape to Lebanon while awaiting trial in Japan.
Michael Taylor was sentenced to two years in prison on Monday, while his son Peter was sentenced to one year and eight months.
They were accused of aiding a criminal during Ghosn’s escape in December 2019, who hid in a large box that was flown by private plane via Turkey to Lebanon. Lebanon does not have an extradition treaty with Japan.
In delivering the sentence, Chief Justice Hideo Nirei said they had committed a serious violation of the law, as there is now virtually no chance of bringing Ghosn to justice.
“This case allowed Ghosn, accused of a serious crime, to flee abroad,” he said.
Although the defense argued that the two were simply used by Ghosn, they were clearly involved no matter who made the decisions, he said.
Ghosn was arrested in Japan in November 2018 for underreporting his pay and breaching trust in using Nissan Motor Co. money for personal gain. He says he is innocent and he left because he couldn’t expect a fair trial in Japan.
The Taylors were arrested in Massachusetts in May 2020 and extradited to Japan in March. During their trial, they apologized, claiming that they had been misled by Ghosn about the Japanese criminal justice system. Michael Taylor sobbed and said he was “broke”, denying that they had benefited financially because the $ 1.3 million prosecutors said Ghosn paid them the covered expenses.
But Nirei, the judge, said the court found the motive to be money. The Taylors can appeal within two weeks, he said.
Father and son, both dressed in dark suits and flanked by guards, stood outside the court in silence.
Taylor’s defense attorney Keiji Isaji has called for a speedy trial. Many Japanese trials last for months or even years.
The maximum penalty in Japan for aiding a criminal is three years in prison. Prosecutors had requested a sentence of two years and 10 months for Michael Taylor and two years and six months for his son.
The Taylors’ defense had pleaded for suspended sentences for the two, who spent 10 months in US detention before their extradition.
But Nirei said the length of their detention before and during the trial would not count as time served, saying they were not directly related and should be treated differently. “There is a limit to what we can consider,” he said.
In December 2019, Ghosn left his home in Tokyo and took a bullet train to Osaka. At a hotel there, he hid in a large box supposedly containing audio equipment, which had air holes so he could breathe, prosecutors said.
Another man, George-Antoine Zayek, is accused in the escape, but has not been arrested.
Separately, Greg Kelly, a former senior Nissan executive, is on trial in Tokyo for falsifying securities reports on Ghosn’s compensation. Kelly, arrested at the same time as Ghosn, also claims to be innocent.
A verdict in Kelly’s trial, which began in September last year, is not expected until next year. Over 99% of Japanese criminal trials result in convictions. If convicted, the charges against Kelly carry a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison.