Japan jails US father, son over Ghosn escape
An American father-son duo who helped former Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn flee Japan were sentenced to jail by a Tokyo court yesterday, one for two years and the other 20 months.
The sentences are the first to be handed down in Japan in the Nissan saga, which began with former auto tycoon Ghosn's shock arrest in 2018 on financial misconduct allegations.
Former US special forces operative Michael Taylor was jailed for two years, while his son Peter received for 20 months for their role in smuggling Ghosn onto a private jet inside an audio equipment box.
"This case enabled Ghosn, a defendant of serious crime, to escape overseas," chief judge Hideo Nirei said. "Both defendants pulled off an unprecedented escape."
Nirei said there was "no prospect" of Ghosn's trial resuming because he is now a fugitive in Lebanon, which has no extradition treaty with Japan.
The Taylors, who faced up to three years in prison, did not contest involvement in what US prosecutors described as "one of the most brazen and well orchestrated escape acts in recent history."
The pair both apologized in previous hearings at which Japanese prosecutors had sought a sentence of two years, 10 months for Michael, and two years, six months for Peter.
Their defense lawyers had argued that a suspended sentence was appropriate given their remorse, and asked that the 10 months they were in US detention before being extradited should be considered in sentencing.
But Nirei said the detention period was not related to the crime and should be treated differently.
He informed the men, who wore dark suits and white shirts with no tie and remained silent as he spoke, that they could file an appeal within 14 days.
The Taylors arrived in Tokyo in March after losing a battle against extradition.
At their first hearing, in June, 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.
Describing the experience recently to the BBC, Ghosn said the half-hour in the box waiting for the plane to take off was "probably the longest wait I've ever experienced in my life."
A third man, identified as George Antoine Zayek, is also accused of involvement in the escape but remains at large.
According to the prosecution, the Ghosn family paid the Taylors more than US$860,000 for preparation and logistical costs, and US$500,000 in cryptocurrency for lawyers' fees.
"The main motive for this case was compensation," Nirei said.
Ghosn's escape started with him simply walking out of the luxury central Tokyo residence where he was out on bail on December 29, 2019, and taking a shinkansen bullet train to Osaka in western Japan.
"There were dozens of people in the carriage, but I was wearing a cap, a facemask and sunglasses. You'd have had to be a real expert to recognize me under all that," Ghosn wrote in a book published last year.
He met Michael Taylor in a hotel in Osaka and was smuggled onto the private jet.
Ghosn, who holds French, Lebanese and Brazilian passports, says he fled because he did not believe he would receive a fair trial. He has always denied the charges.