DHA / AP
Two Americans accused of helping ex-Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn flee Japan while he was facing charges of financial misconduct agreed on Monday that they were involved in a plot to flee the country.
Statements by Michael Taylor and his son Peter on the opening day of their trial in Tokyo indicate that the couple do not plan to face charges of aiding a criminal. His sentence may be up to three years in prison.
Keiji Isaji, a lawyer for the Taylor family, told The Associated Press after the court session that he wanted the trial “efficient.” He said it was in the best interests of his clients to end the trial quickly. He declined to confirm that his team had hoped for a suspended sentence if they were found guilty, meaning he would not serve any time. He stressed that the decision is up to the judge.
The Taylors looked calm as they were led into the courtroom in handcuffs, with ropes tied around their waists.
They said little except to answer the judge’s questions, such as “Yes, your honor,” and “I hear you well” when asked about the interpretation transmitted over headphones.
Prosecutors read a statement accusing former Green Beret Michael Taylor and Peter Taylor of arranging to hide Ghosn in a musical equipment box. He was loaded onto a private plane that took him from the western city of Osaka to Lebanon via Turkey in December 2019.
Ryozo Kitajima, a prosecutor, said Peter Taylor met Ghosn several times at a hotel in 2019 and introduced Ghosn to his father. He said Peter Taylor also received $562,500 in two transfers to pay for the plane’s charter and other expenses. Peter Taylor arranged for Ghosn to change clothes in a Tokyo hotel. Kitajima said his father and another man, Georges-Antoine Zik, later escorted Ghosn to Osaka airport.
Zayke has not been arrested.
Prosecutors said $500,000 of bitcoins were transferred from the account of Ghosn’s son Anthony to Peter Taylor in 2020, allegedly to cover the costs of defending Taylors.
After a brief discussion with Chief Justice Hideo Neri and their attorney, Taylor agreed that there were no errors in the statement.
Prosecutors said that during their detention Taylor had expressed remorse and that the couple had been misled into believing that helping someone jump bail was not illegal in Japan. They said Ghosn’s wife, Carole, told them that Ghosn was being tortured. Prosecutors quoted the Taylors as saying they were not tortured and were treated “fairly and professionally”.
The next court session is scheduled for June 29, when prosecutors will continue to question them.
Taylor’s family was arrested in Massachusetts last year and extradited to Japan in March. Ghosn holds French, Lebanese and Brazilian citizenship and Lebanon does not have an extradition treaty with Japan. Authorities say Ghosn paid Taylor’s family at least $1.3 million.
Ghosn led Nissan Motor Company for two decades before his arrest in 2018. He was charged with falsifying securities reports into failing to report his compensation and breach of trust in using Nissan funds for personal gain. He says he is innocent and says he fled Japan because he didn’t expect to get a fair trial. Over 99% of criminal cases in Japan result in convictions.
Peter Taylor told a Massachusetts court in January that he met Ghosn in 2019 in Japan to offer his digital marketing firm to help repair Ghosn’s tarnished reputation. He said that Ghosn asked him to bring gifts, food, and DVDs from his wife, and to deliver gifts, including to relatives in Lebanon.
Peter Taylor said he left Japan for Shanghai on December 29, 2019, and was not in Japan when he accused Ghosn of fleeing. Court documents say he denied having contact with his father at the time.
None of the Japanese executives have been charged in the scandal at Nissan, the Yokohama-based maker of the Leaf electric car, March sub-models and Infiniti luxury models.
Extraditions between Japan and the United States are relatively rare, even for serious crimes. The possible sentence of three years in prison is the minimum required for extradition.
Separately, the same court is trying another American, Greg Kelly, the former executive vice president of Nissan, on charges of failing to report Ghosn’s compensation. That trial began in September.
Kelly’s trial focused on whether reporting deferred compensation to Ghosn may have violated the law. Several other senior Nissan executives, including some non-Japanese, were aware of the arrangements.
Kelly says he is innocent and was only looking for legal ways to pay more to Ghosn to prevent him from leaving for a rival car company.
Before his arrest, Ghosn was a star in the auto industry, having orchestrated Nissan’s recovery from the brink of bankruptcy after its French alliance partner Renault sent him to Japan in 1999.
Ghosn’s pay was cut in half, by about 1 billion yen ($10 million), in 2010 when Japan began demanding disclosure of high executive salaries.
The concern was that his relatively high wages might be viewed unfavorably because top Japanese executives tend to earn lower salaries than their counterparts in other countries.