A Tokyo court has handed down prison terms for the American father and son accused of helping Nissan’s former chairman, Carlos Ghosn, escape to Lebanon while awaiting trial in Japan.
Michael Taylor was sentenced to two years in prison, while his son Peter was sentenced to one year and eight months.
They were charged with helping a criminal in the December 2019 escape of Ghosn, who hid in a box that was flown on a private jet via Turkey to Lebanon. Lebanon has no extradition treaty with Japan.
In handing down the sentencing, chief judge Hideo Nirei said they had committed a serious violation of the law, as there is now next to no chance of putting Ghosn on trial.
“This case enabled Ghosn, a defendant of a serious crime, to escape overseas,” he said.
Although the defence argued the two had been merely used by Ghosn, they clearly were involved, regardless of who was making the decisions, he said.
Ghosn was arrested in Japan in November 2018 on charges of underreporting his compensation and of breach of trust in using Nissan’s money for personal gain. He says he is innocent, and he left because he could not expect a fair trial in Japan.
The Taylors were arrested in Massachusetts in May 2020 and extradited to Japan in March. During their trial they apologised, saying they had been misled by Ghosn about Japan’s criminal justice system.
Michael Taylor sobbed and said he was “broke,” denying they had benefited monetarily because the 1.3 million dollars (£944,000) prosecutors said Ghosn paid them just covered expenses.
But the judge said the court found that the motive was money. The Taylors can appeal within two weeks.
The father and son, both wearing dark suits and flanked by guards, stood before the court in silence.
The Taylors’ defence lawyer Keiji Isaji had sought a speedy trial. Many Japanese trials last for months, if not years.
The maximum penalty in Japan for helping a criminal is three years in prison. Prosecutors had demanded a sentence of of two years and 10 months for Michael Taylor and two years and six months for his son.
The Taylors’ defence had argued for suspended sentences for the two, who spent 10 months in custody in the US before their extradition.
In December 2019, Ghosn left his home in Tokyo and took a bullet train to Osaka. At a hotel there, he hid in a big box supposedly containing audio equipment, with air holes punched in it so that he could breathe, according to prosecutors.
Another man, George-Antoine Zayek, is accused over the escape, but has not been arrested.
Separately, Greg Kelly, a former top Nissan executive, is on trial in Tokyo on charges of falsifying securities reports on Ghosn’s compensation.
Kelly, who was arrested at the same time as Ghosn, also says he is innocent.
A verdict in Kelly’s trial, which began in September last year, is not expected until next year.
More than 99% of Japanese criminal trials result in convictions. Upon conviction, the charges Kelly faces carry the maximum penalty of up to 15 years in prison.