The American father-son duo charged with helping former Nissan Motor Co. Chairman Carlos Ghosn flee trial in Japan a year and a half ago pleaded guilty in a Tokyo court on Monday.
Appearing for the first time since they were extradited to Japan from the U.S. earlier this year, Michael Taylor, 60, and Peter Taylor, 28, listened as the prosecutor read out the charges. Asked by the judge whether there was anything wrong with the charges, Michael replied “No, your Honor” while Peter said “No, ma’am.”
The duo, dressed similarly in dark jacket and pants, white shirt with no tie and plastic slippers, arrived in handcuffs. Michael appeared frail, his hair thinning and voice raspy. His son appeared stronger and spoke with confidence. Both have spent time in solitary confinement.
The Taylors were brought to Japan in March to face charges related to their involvement in Ghosn’s escape in late 2019 from Japan, where he was facing charges of financial misconduct. After smuggling himself in a case for audio equipment and being put in a private jet, the former auto executive made his way to Beirut, where he currently resides.
The pair face a maximum of three years in prison on charges of harboring or enabling the escape of a criminal. They had already served time in the U.S. before being extradited, and it’s not clear whether that time will be factored into their sentencing in Japan.
Michael has never denied his involvement in Ghosn’s escape, even describing how he executed the operation in interviews in the past, though he had maintained that his son, Peter, had no role in the escape.
Upon entering the courtroom at the Tokyo District Court on Monday afternoon, the Taylors, represented by five lawyers, were handed earphones to listen to the translation, asked their particulars by one of the judges and then read details of their indictment by one of two prosecutors.
The prosecutor outlined how Ghosn was facing a trial for falsifying financial reports and breach of trust, and “knowing that he was supposed to face this trial and he should not hide or go abroad, knowing all that, you helped him avoid the trial by helping him escape via Turkey to Lebanon?”
The prosecutor then read from a statement that said the Taylors hid Ghosn in some luggage and then took him to a hotel in Osaka and then onto Kansai Airport, still hidden. The box with Ghosn was then moved to the international airport past the premium gate, past security and placed on a jet that left Japanese territory.
Both Michael and Peter, who appeared calm throughout and briefly looked at reporters in the audience box, said there was no problem with those allegations.
The Taylors’ case in Tokyo is the latest addition to multiple legal proceedings around the world left in Ghosn’s wake. Former Nissan director Greg Kelly is currently standing trial in Tokyo for allegedly helping to understate Ghosn’s compensation and Nissan is suing Ghosn for ¥10 billion ($95 million) in damages in a separate suit that’s proceeding slowly in Yokohama. French investigators have been questioning Ghosn in Beirut on accusations he siphoned Renault SA funds, and last month the former executive was ordered to pay almost €5 million ($6 million) to a local unit of Nissan in a case in the Netherlands.
In the months since their arrival, the Taylors have been held in a facility on the outskirts of Tokyo. There, they’ve been questioned by prosecutors and blocked from speaking with press.
If convicted, the Taylors face a maximum of three years in prison on charges of harboring or enabling the escape of a criminal. The Japanese legal system will be “tough but fair” with the Taylors, said William Cleary, a professor at Hiroshima Shudo University who specializes in Japanese criminal law. They probably won’t get the maximum sentence, he said.
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