Japanese prosecutors seek over two years of jail for Ghosn accomplices

Father-son duo have already been detained for about 10 months in US

(FILES) In this file photo taken on April 25, 2019 former Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn (C) is escorted as he walks out of the Tokyo Detention House following his release on bail in Tokyo.

 A year after Japan learned with horror that Carlos Ghosn had jumped bail to become the world's most famous fugitive, the fiasco and its repercussions continue to haunt the country. Ghosn was living in a monitored Tokyo apartment awaiting trial on financial misconduct charges when he casually boarded a train to Osaka in western Japan on December 29, 2019 with two accomplices. - TO GO WITH AFP FOCUS "JAPAN-GHOSN-AUTOMOBILE-LEBANON-NISSAN-RENAULT" BY ETIENNE BALMER 
 / AFP / Behrouz MEHRI / TO GO WITH AFP FOCUS "JAPAN-GHOSN-AUTOMOBILE-LEBANON-NISSAN-RENAULT" BY ETIENNE BALMER

Prosecutors recommended sentences of more than two years for two Americans who helped former Nissan Motor chairman Carlos Ghosn flee trial in Japan in 2019.

Of the father-son duo who pleaded guilty to charges of aiding Mr Ghosn’s escape to Lebanon, Michael Taylor, the father, should receive a sentence of two years and 10 months, and Peter Taylor, the son, should receive two years and six months, prosecutors said at a hearing Friday.

“The charges against Carlos Ghosn are serious,” prosecutor Ryozo Kitajima said of the accusations of financial misconduct that Mr Ghosn was facing in Japan. Due to the actions of the Taylors, “the ability to go after the truth has been blocked”, he said.

Mr 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, Mr Kitajima said.

The Taylors’ lawyers said they should receive a suspended sentence. The pair have already been detained for about 10 months in the US and Mr Ghosn was the one behind the scenes doing all of the major planning, the defence’s Keiji Isaji said. A verdict and sentence is expected on July 19.

The recommendation on sentencing brings the Taylors one step closer to the end of a lengthy period of incarceration and legal battles they have faced since helping Mr Ghosn escape Japan in a box at the end of 2019. After spending time in jail in the US and fighting extradition charges, the pair were brought to Japan in March. The two have been placed in solitary confinement in a detention centre in Tokyo while attending hearings at a district court which began in June.

The crime of harbouring or enabling the escape of a criminal carries a maximum sentence of three years in prison in Japan, though experts on their case had suggested that pleading guilty, showing remorse and co-operating with prosecutors would lead to lighter sentencing.

The duo apologised to prosecutors and Japan’s justice system in a hearing this week. Helping Mr Ghosn flee was a mistake, they both said. They apologised again on Friday. “I stand here today as a man whose life has been destroyed,” Michael Taylor said, sobbing. “No one will stand before you and be more remorseful and sorry than me and my son.”

He has never denied his involvement in Mr Ghosn’s escape, speaking about how he organised and carried out the brazen operation in court. His son's role is less clear.

Money used to pay for Mr Ghosn’s escape was transferred through Peter’s company and he met with the former auto executive several times in the months leading up to, and on the day of, the escape, according to prosecutors. But Peter testified in court earlier this week that he did not know the details of when or how Mr Ghosn was planning to escape, and only learnt of the former chairman’s flight via media reports after the fact.

It remains unclear whether the time the Taylors have served in the US will be factored into the judge’s final sentencing decision. The US State Department said it would inform the Japanese government of the amount of time the Taylors had served so that it could be taken into account, a letter seen by Bloomberg News said.

Prosecutors said on Friday that time spent should not be a reason for a more lenient sentence.

Updated: July 2nd 2021, 2:20 PM
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