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Carlos Ghosn. Picture: REUTERS/MOHAMED AZAKIR
Carlos Ghosn. Picture: REUTERS/MOHAMED AZAKIR

Tokyo — Helping Carlos Ghosn escape trial in Japan was a mistake, one that he deeply regrets, says one of the Americans who helped the former Nissan Motor chair flee to safety in Lebanon.

“I helped Carlos Ghosn escape Japan while he was on bail,” Michael Taylor said on Tuesday, his voice quavering. It was the first time he spoke at length in court. “I deeply regret my actions and sincerely apologise for causing difficulties for the judicial process and for the Japanese people.”

At a hearing two weeks ago, Michael and his son Peter agreed with assertions by prosecutors that they helped Ghosn escape the country at the end of 2019. They were extradited to Japan from the US earlier this year, and face a maximum of three years in prison on charges of harboring or enabling the escape of a criminal.

The duo, dressed in dark suits and white shirts, arrived in handcuffs, flanked by guards. Michael Taylor was questioned by his attorney for 18 minutes, followed by questioning by one of the prosecutors. He described how he came to learn that Ghosn wanted to escape, and that Ghosn’s cousin was his wife’s sister-in-law, who pressed him to help the former auto executive.

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 standing trial in Tokyo for allegedly helping to understate Ghosn’s compensation and Nissan is suing Ghosn for ¥10bn ($95m) in damages in a separate suit that is proceeding in Yokohama.

French investigators have been questioning Ghosn in Beirut on accusations he siphoned Renault funds, and last month the former executive was ordered to pay €5m to a local unit of Nissan in a case in the Netherlands.

The Taylors were brought to Japan in March to face charges related to their involvement in Ghosn’s escape from Japan, where he was facing charges of financial misconduct. After concealing himself in a case for audio equipment and being smuggled aboard a private jet, the former auto executive made his way to Beirut, where he now resides.

A former Green Beret, Michael has never denied his involvement in Ghosn’s escape, even describing how he executed the operation in an interview with Vanity Fair before he was arrested. A longtime security consultant, Michael said he had been planning the operation for months, though he had maintained that Peter had no role.

By pleading guilty and showing remorse, the Taylors appear to be seeking a speedy sentencing and reduced sentence. They have already served time in the US though it is not clear whether that will be factored into their sentencing in Japan.

Their sentencing is set to take place later in July.

Taylor said that he arrived in Japan on December 29, 2019, for a “dry run” but that Ghosn had decided, after seeing the large music box, to make a run for it that same day. There was also an alternate plan to escape Japan by ship, Taylor said.

“They told me that the charges should not have been brought, and that bail jumping wasn’t a crime,” Taylor said in response to questions by the prosecutor. “They told me that he would be here for 10 to 15 years and so he would probably die here.”

Bloomberg News. More stories like this are available on bloomberg.com

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