Michael Taylor, who was implicated in enabling the dramatic escape of former Nissan Motor Co boss Carlos Ghosn, is seen in a booking photograph from October 24, 2012 on unrelated charges and released by the Davis County Sherriff's office. File photo: DAVIS COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE/HANDOUT via REUTERS
Michael Taylor, who was implicated in enabling the dramatic escape of former Nissan Motor Co boss Carlos Ghosn, is seen in a booking photograph from October 24, 2012 on unrelated charges and released by the Davis County Sherriff's office. File photo: DAVIS COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE/HANDOUT via REUTERS
Image: Handout

The father-son team that smuggled Carlos Ghosn out of Japan in a large musical-equipment case was sentenced to time in prison for their role in helping Nissan Motor’s former chair flee trial in 2019.

Michael Taylor, 60, the father and a former US Green Beret, received a sentence of two years by the three-judge panel on Monday in a hearing that lasted about 20 minutes. His 28-year-old son, Peter Taylor, received a 20-month sentence.

Both pleaded guilty last month to charges of aiding Ghosn’s escape to Beirut, a development that was just as shocking as the November 2018 arrest of the car executive for alleged financial crimes.

With Ghosn out of reach — Lebanon does not extradite its citizens — the pair has become a proxy for Ghosn and his case. So has Greg Kelly, a former Nissan director who was detained on the same day as his boss and is facing trial in Japan. Ghosn and Kelly have denied allegations of understating the car executive’s compensation.

After spending more than a year in Japan and free on bail, Ghosn made his way to Osaka’s airport on December 29, 2019, by bullet train. From there, he was rolled on to a private jet that flew to Istanbul, where he switched aircraft and made his way to Beirut.

“This case enabled Ghosn, a defendant of a serious crime, to escape overseas,” chief judge Hideo Nirei said. Noting that Ghosn has no intention of returning to Japan, he added: “A year and a half has passed, but there is no prospect of the trial being held.”

The actions of the Taylors means the “the ability to go after the truth has been blocked”, prosecutor Ryozo Kitajima argued on July 2. Ghosn’s escape was “systematically” planned over the course of more than half a year and while Michael led the operation, Peter’s role was also significant, he said.

Prosecutors recommended a sentence of more than two years for each.

Legal battles

Defence lawyers for the Taylors, who were detained for about 10 months in the US before their extradition, pushed for a suspended sentence. Ghosn was the one behind the scenes and did all the major planning, Keiji Isaji, an attorney for the Taylors, said in a prior hearing.

The Taylors have been embroiled in legal battles since helping Ghosn escape. After fighting extradition charges, the pair were brought to Japan in March. The two were placed in solitary confinement in a detention centre as they attended trial at the Tokyo District Court.

The crime of harbouring or enabling the escape of a criminal carries a maximum sentence of three years in prison in Japan.

The duo apologised to prosecutors and Japan’s justice system in a hearing in late June. Helping Ghosn flee was a mistake, they both said.

Michael Taylor has never denied his involvement in Ghosn’s escape, speaking in court about how he organised and carried out the brazen operation. Peter’s role is less clear.

Money used to pay for Ghosn’s escape was transferred through Peter’s company and he met the former car executive several times in the months leading up to, and on the day of, the escape, according to prosecutors. But Peter testified in court last month that he didn’t know the details of when or how Ghosn was planning to escape, and only learnt of the former chair’s flight via reports after the fact.

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

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