The video from a surveillance camera from 2019 shows Michael L. Taylor (center) and George-Antoine Zayek during passport control at Istanbul Airport in Turkey. Hide DHA / AP labeling
DHA / AP
DHA / AP
TOKYO – Two Americans charged with helping former Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn escape Japan while charged with financial misconduct agreed on Monday to be part of a plan for his escape from the country .
Testimony by Michael Taylor and his son Peter on the opening day of their Tokyo trial suggests the couple have no plans to crack down on the charges of aiding and abetting a criminal. This carries a possible sentence of up to three years in prison.
Keiji Isaji, one of the Taylors’ attorneys, told The Associated Press after the court session that he wanted the trial to be “efficient.” He said ending the process quickly was “in the best interests of his clients”. He declined to confirm that if convicted, his team was hoping for suspended sentence, meaning no time would be served. He stressed that the decision rests with the judge.
The Taylors looked calm as they were led into the courtroom in handcuffs and with ropes around their waist.
They said little other than to answer the judge’s questions such as “Yes, Your Honor” and “I can hear you well” when asked about simultaneous translation over headphones.
Prosecutors read a statement accusing Michael Taylor, a former Green Beret, and Peter Taylor of hiding Ghosn in a music box. It was loaded onto a private jet that flew it from the western city of Osaka via Turkey to Lebanon in December 2019.
Ryozo Kitajima, one of the prosecutors, said Peter Taylor met with Ghosn several times in a hotel in 2019 and introduced Ghosn to his father. He said Peter Taylor also received $ 562,500 in two remittances to pay for the jet’s charter and other expenses. Peter Taylor got Ghosn to change into a hotel in Tokyo. His father and another man, George-Antoine Zayek, later escorted Ghosn to Osaka Airport, Kitajima said.
Zayek was not arrested.
Prosecutors said $ 500,000 worth of bitcoins was transferred from Ghosn’s son Anthony’s account to Peter Taylor in 2020 to allegedly cover the Taylors’ defense costs.
After a brief discussion with Chief Judge Hideo Nirei and her defense lawyers, the Taylors agreed that there were no errors in the statement.
Prosecutors said the Taylors expressed remorse during their arrest and that the couple had been misled into helping someone jump bail is not illegal in Japan. They said Ghosn’s wife, Carole, told them Ghosn was being tortured. Prosecutors quoted the Taylors as saying that they had not been tortured and that they were treated “fairly and professionally”.
The next session of the trial is scheduled for June 29th, when prosecutors continue their interrogation.
The Taylors were arrested in Massachusetts last year and extradited to Japan in March. Ghosn is a French, Lebanese and Brazilian citizen and Lebanon does not have an extradition treaty with Japan. Authorities say Ghosn paid the Taylors at least $ 1.3 million.
Ghosn ran Nissan Motor Co. for two decades before he was arrested in 2018. He was charged with forging securities reports for failing to adequately report his compensation and for breaching trust in using Nissan money for personal gain. He says he is innocent and fled Japan because he did not expect a fair trial. More than 99% of criminal cases in Japan result in convictions.
Peter Taylor said in a Massachusetts court in January that he met Ghosn in Japan in 2019 to introduce his digital marketing firm to help mend Ghosn’s tarnished reputation. He said Ghosn asked him to bring him gifts, food and DVDs from his wife, and to bring gifts, including to relatives in Lebanon.
Peter Taylor said he left Japan for Shanghai on December 29, 2019 and was not in Japan when Ghosn is accused of fleeing. He denied having had any contact with his father at the time, according to court records.
No Japanese executives have been charged in the scandal at Nissan, the Yokohama-based maker of the Leaf electric car, the March subcompact and the luxury Infiniti models.
Extraditions between Japan and the US are relatively rare, even for serious crimes. The possible sentence of three years in prison is the minimum for extradition.
Separately, the same court is trying another American, Greg Kelly, a former Nissan executive vice president, on charges of under-reporting Ghosn’s compensation. This process started in September.
Kelly’s trial focused on whether reporting deferred compensation for Ghosn might have been against the law. Several other Nissan executives, including some non-Japanese, were aware of the deal.
Kelly says he is innocent and was just looking for legal ways to pay Ghosn more to keep him from going to a rival automaker.
Prior to his arrest, Ghosn was a star in the auto industry after being sent to Japan in 1999 by his French alliance partner Renault to orchestrate Nissan’s recovery from the brink of bankruptcy.
Ghosn’s salary was cut in half by about 1 billion yen ($ 10 million) in 2010 when Japan began to require high salaries from executives to be disclosed.
The concern was that his relatively high pay could be viewed as unfavorable, as top Japanese executives tend to receive lower salary packages than their counterparts in other countries.