TOKYO: Jail sentences of more than two are being sought by Japanese prosecutors for a US Army Special Forces veteran and his son who have admitted helping ousted Nissan Motor Co. Chairman Carlos Ghosn flee the country, media reports said on Friday.
According to the reports, a Tokyo court heard from the prosecutors they are seeking sentences of two years and 10 months for the former special forces veteran Michael Taylor, and two years and six months for his son Peter, reports Xinhua news agency.
The prosecutors’ announcement followed the father-and-son pair on Tuesday telling the court they regretted helping Ghosn jump bail and flee Japan where the once-revered auto-tycoon was due to face charges of alleged financial misconduct.
The duo pleaded guilty in June to illegally aiding Ghosn’s escape from Japan to Lebanon concealed in a large box aboard a private jet, which took off from an airport in western Japan.
One of the prosecutors on Friday described the Taylors’ crime as “unprecedented” and “bold”, according to the media reports, although the prison term sought was less than the maximum three years in jail that could have been appealed for.
Describing Ghosn’s escape in December 2019 as a “sophisticated and bold crime”, one of the prosecutors maintained that Michael Taylor played “a leading role” and that his responsibility is “extremely grave.”
“The case considerably infringed upon our country’s criminal justice,” the prosecutor was also quoted as saying. At their first hearing on June 14, the two Americans pleaded guilty to helping Ghosn flee Japan while he was on bail pending his trial.
The Taylors had already admitted to the charges associated with Ghosn’s audacious escape from Japan to avoid trial for charges of financial misconduct.
The prosecutors said the pair were paid $1.3 million to help Ghosn escape, which involved providing Ghosn illegal passage to Lebanon, one of three countries he is a national of, by smuggling him out of his residence in Tokyo and to Kansai International Airport via two hotels in late December 2019.
The father and son team, in full knowledge that Ghosn was prohibited from leaving Japan as part of his bail terms, hid him in a large box, which cleared Kansai airport security. Thereafter, the illicit cargo was flown to Turkey on a private jet.
At the request of Japanese prosecutors, the Taylors were arrested in Massachusetts in 2020 by US authorities. They had fought extradition to Japan in US courts but ultimately lost their battle when their appeal was rejected by the US Supreme Court in February.
Once extradited, they were arrested and charged in Japan in March and have since been detained at the same jail in Tokyo where Ghosn was once held. Ghosn, who holds Brazilian, French and Lebanese nationality, is accused of under-reporting his remuneration for years and for embezzling company funds.
He has denied all the charges, claiming company insiders conspired against him. Japan has since been trying to detain him with the help of Interpol as Lebanon does not have an extradition treaty with Tokyo.
This means that Ghosn cannot be legally handed over to Japan without Lebanon first agreeing to it.