TOKYO – Americans Michael Taylor and Peter Taylor pleaded guilty in Tokyo on Monday to a charge of aiding the former Nissan Motor Co.
Chief Carlos Ghosn escaped from Japan in a box aboard a private jet in late 2019.
Michael Taylor, a 60-year-old former green beret, and his 28-year-old son Peter Taylor were extradited to Japan from the United States in March. They were arrested in Massachusetts in May 2020. The Taylors were charged with assisting in the escape of a criminal, a crime that carries a maximum penalty of three years in prison.
Ghosn, who had been living in Tokyo while awaiting trial on financial misconduct charges, fled the country in late December 2019. He lives in Lebanon, which does not have an extradition treaty with Japan.
The Taylors and a third alleged accomplice, Lebanese-American George Zayek, arrived in Japan shortly before Ghosn’s escape, according to US and Japanese court records.
The young Taylor met Ghosn the day before and on the day of the escape, court records say, while the older Taylor and Zayek flew to Japan on the day of the escape aboard a private jet carrying a plane. pair of black boxes for concert equipment. They later used one of the boxes to smuggle Mr. Ghosn aboard the plane, records say. Mr. Zayek has not been arrested and is believed to be in Lebanon, where he is also a citizen.
The plane flew to Turkey, where Ghosn switched to another private plane that took him to Beirut. In February, the two pilots who brought Ghosn to Turkey from Japan and a manager of the charter company that loaned the plane were found guilty by a Turkish court of human smuggling. The judge gave each of them a suspended sentence of four years and two months.
Before their arrival in Japan, the Taylors’ lawyers argued that they had not committed a crime under Japanese law and said they would not receive a fair trial in the country. His lawyers mentioned the long periods of interrogation in Japan during which defendants cannot have their lawyer present, a system critics call hostage justice.
Japan’s Ministry of Justice and prosecutors have denied pressuring people to make confessions. Defense attorneys cannot be present during questioning because it would interfere with the prosecutors’ work. according to the ministry.
Ghosn has said he is innocent of all the charges against him and fled Japan because he was unable to obtain a fair trial.
In an interview in Beirut in May, Ghosn declined to comment on the role of the Taylors in their escape. “I don’t want to make anyone’s life more difficult than it is today, especially when they are suspected of helping me,” he said.
Ghosn said he would not be surprised if the Taylors made statements in line with the Japanese authorities’ opinion on the case, but he would view such statements as made under duress.
“How can you trust a statement made by a person in a hostage justice system?” Mr. Ghosn said.
Write to Sean McLain at [email protected]
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