US duo sentenced to jail by Tokyo court for helping Ghosn flee Japan

TOKYO, July 19 (Reuters) – A Tokyo court on Monday handed down the first sentences in Japan linked to the arrest and escape of Carlos Ghosn, jailing US Army Special Forces veteran Michael Taylor for two years and his son Peter for a year and eight months to help the former president of Nissan Motor Co Ltd (7201.T) flee to Lebanon in 2019.

“This case allowed Ghosn, an accused of serious crimes, to escape abroad,” said Hideo Nirei, the chief justice, while explaining the judgment. “A year and a half has passed, but there is no chance that the trial will take place.”

Dressed in dark suits and flanked by four guards, the two remained silent during their 20-minute appearance in Tokyo District Court.

Nirei said the elder Taylor played a “leading role” in the escape by escorting Ghosn onto the jet, while his son took care of his luggage and provided him with a key to a room in the room. hotel where he had changed clothes.

The pair, who faced up to three years in prison, pleaded guilty and offered a tearful apology in court last month, saying they regretted their role in Ghosn’s exodus from Japan hidden in a box aboard a private jet from Japanese Kansai Airport. end of 2019.

Prosecutors said the Taylors received $ 1.3 million for expenses and payment, with an additional $ 500,000 for legal fees.

A Turkish court in February sentenced the Turkish company MNG and two pilots for their role in the escape from Ghosn, sentencing the pilots to four years and two months in prison.

The Taylors were arrested in the United States in May 2020, but did not arrive in Japan until March because their lawyers sought to prevent their extradition, arguing that they could not be prosecuted for helping someone to “Jump on bail” and that they could face relentless questioning. and torture.

In Japan, suspects are questioned in the absence of their lawyers and are often denied bail before trial.

Ghosn remains a fugitive in his childhood home in Lebanon, which has no extradition treaty with Japan.

In Japan, he faces accusations that he underestimated his compensation in Nissan’s financial statements by 9.3 billion yen ($ 85 million) over a decade and got rich at his employer’s expense. by making payments to car dealerships in the Middle East.

Greg Kelly, a former Nissan executive tasked with helping Ghosn hide his compensation, is also on trial in Tokyo, with a judgment expected next year. Ghosn and Kelly deny the charges.

The Taylors have 14 days to appeal the verdict and sentence.

Reporting by Tim Kelly and Eimi Yamamitsu; Editing by Tom Hogue and Gerry Doyle

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