An American father and son pleaded guilty Monday to assisting for former Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn flee Japan to avoid trial on multiple charges of financial corruption.
Former Green Beret Michael Taylor and son, Peter Maxwell Taylor, acknowledged their role in the daring escape of the former, high-flying executive who is now living in Lebanon, which refuses to extradite him back to Japan. The two men face up to three years in prison.
The 60-year-old Taylor and his 28-year-old son spent months battling an extradition order while being held in Massachusetts. They ultimately lost their bid and were sent to Japan in March. The Taylors are just the latest to face prison for their role in helping the 67-year-old Ghosn escape during the 2019 Christmas holidays.
Ghosn was arrested in November 2018 shortly after his corporate jet arrived at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport. At the time, he was serving multiple roles for the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance, among them chairman of Nissan. Authorities initially accused him of concealing millions of dollars in income, later adding numerous additional charges.
An unheated cell and a tatami mat
The executive spent months confined to a tiny, unheated cell with only a mat on its floor, a situation that Ghosn, his lawyers and critics of the Japanese legal system to call tantamount to torture. He was eventually released on bail but remained subject to severe restrictions. Among other things, Ghosn could have limited contact with family members and was allowed to use the Internet only at his lawyer’s office.
Convinced he wouldn’t receive a fair trial, Ghosn began working on a plot to escape Japan. Authorities there believe at least 15 people were involved. The Taylors were critical to that effort, Japanese prosecutors said in their request for extradition and, more recently, in court.
As part of the plot, they claim, son Peter Taylor made three trips to Japan ahead of the escape, meeting with Ghosn himself at least seven times.
In a move that could have been lifted from a Hollywood script, Ghosn nonchalantly walked out of the home he was renting in Tokyo — authorities unaware anything was wrong despite the security cameras that had been installed there. Ghosn was then taken by Shinkansen, the Japanese bullet train, to Osaka, where he was loaded into a large box that had hidden air holes drilled into it. Labeled as cargo, it was then loaded onto a plane bound for Turkey.
Once the flight landed, Ghosn was transferred on another jet to Lebanon, the country where his parents came from. Though Brazilian-born, the former auto executive retained strong ties to the country — even appearing on a Lebanese stamp.
Authorities there have declined to extradite Ghosn — who has taken numerous steps to protest the charges leveled against him. He is planning to meet with French investigators in a bid to demonstrate his innocence.
Others paying the price
While Ghosn remains free, albeit unable to leave Lebanon, a number of those accused of aiding his escape now face time in prison.
The Taylors have been held in the same Tokyo detention center that once held Ghosn since they were brought to Japan in March. They each face up to three years in prison, though some of that could be offset accounting for the time they were held in the United States fighting extradition.
Three Turkish men were arrested shortly after details of Ghosn’s escape began coming together. They claim they were unaware of the plot but now have been sentenced by a court there to prison.
On the run
George Antoine Zayek, the man who allegedly took Ghosn from Tokyo to Osaka, is subject to an arrest warrant, as is Ghosn’s wife. Both remain at large, Carole Ghosn currently living with her husband in Lebanon.
Meanwhile, former Nissan executive Greg Kelly has himself been on trial since September for allegedly aiding Ghosn in hiding millions of dollars in compensation. The American claims he is innocent. His trial is expect to stretch on into the second half of 2021.