Alleged Accomplices in Ghosn Escape Set to Appear in Tokyo Court

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Two Americans charged with helping former Nissan Motor Co. Chairman Carlos Ghosn flee trial in Japan a year-and-a-half ago are now set to appear at their own hearing at the Tokyo District Court on Monday.

Michael Taylor, 60, and Peter Taylor, 28, have been charged with helping Ghosn illegally escape Japan in December 2019, where he was facing charges of financial misconduct. The former executive, who has denied prosecutors’ accusations of understating income and using company funds for personal use, was smuggled out of Japan in a case for audio equipment and ended up in Beirut, where he currently resides.

In March, the father-son duo were brought to Japan to face charges in a rare case of extradition that was seen as a much-needed victory for Japan’s justice system after the made-for-movies escape by the former auto executive. Later that month, prosecutors formally charged the two with aiding Ghosn.

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 yen ($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 euros ($6 million) to a local unit of Nissan in a case in the Netherlands.

Ex-Green Beret

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.

A former Green Beret, Michael Taylor has never denied his involvement in Ghosn’s escape, and even described how he executed the operation in an interview with Vanity Fair before he was arrested. A longtime security consultant, Taylor said he had been planning the operation for months.

And while Michael Taylor has asserted that his son had no role in the escape, their legal team didn’t raise that issue in court until after their extradition was authorized in the U.S. The Taylors’ lawyers had claimed that what the pair did was help an individual “jump bail,” which isn’t a crime in Japan, they argued.

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.

If the Taylors are convicted, it’s not clear whether they’ll get credit for the time they already served in the U.S. The State Department said it would inform the Japanese government of the amount of time the Taylors had served so that it could be factored into any sentence imposed, according to a letter seen by Bloomberg News.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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