TOKYO: Japanese prosecutors have charged two Americans, Michael Taylor and his son Peter, in connection with the escape of former Nissan Chairman Carlos Ghosn to Lebanon.
Tokyo District Prosecutors have been questioning the Taylors since they were extradited from the United States earlier this month. They have been detained at a Tokyo detention center since Mar 2.
Prosecutors said the Taylors were formally charged Monday (Mar 22) with helping a criminal escape. The prosecutors had been seeking their extradition for months after they were arrested and detained in the US last May.
The Taylors were not immediately available for comment, as is standard in Japan’s criminal system, where more than 99 per cent of those who go on trial are found guilty.
Ghosn, who led Nissan Motor Co. for nearly two decades, was arrested in November 2018 and later charged with under-reporting his compensation and breach of trust.
He jumped bail and escaped to Lebanon in December 2019. Ghosn says he is innocent.
Japan has put Ghosn on Interpol’s wanted list, but Lebanon has no extradition treaty with Japan.
Michael Taylor, with the help of another man, George-Antoine Zayek, hid Ghosn in a large black box supposedly containing audio equipment, according to the authorities.
The box passed through airport security in Osaka, central Japan, and was loaded onto a private jet that flew Ghosn to Turkey.
Peter Taylor is accused of meeting with Ghosn and helping his father carry out the escape. Authorities say the Taylors were paid at least US$1.3 million.
The Taylors’ lawyers in the US fought the extradition, saying they may be treated unfairly in Japan and subjected to “mental and physical torture”.
They also argued that jumping bail is not a crime under Japanese law. That is technically accurate, but most people who escape are easily caught in Japan.
Japanese prosecutors have repeatedly stressed that they have enough evidence to convict the Taylors.
The dates for their trial are still undecided.
If convicted, the Taylors face up to three years in prison and a fine of up to 300,000 yen (US$2,900).
Separately, Greg Kelly, a former Nissan executive vice president, is on trial on charges of under-reporting Ghosn's compensation. Kelly says he is innocent as he did not know about such actions. He had been trying to find legal ways to compensate Ghosn, so he would not quit and go to a rival automaker, according to his legal team.
Nissan, as a company, is also standing trial. Nissan has acknowledged wrongdoing.