Americans charged with helping Carlos Ghosn escape for trial in Tokyo

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An American father-son duo accused of putting former Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn into an audio equipment case to escape trial in Japan will appear in a Tokyo court for the first time on Monday.

While Ghosn is an internationally wanted fugitive now living in Lebanon after the 2019 escape, former US Army Green Beret Michael Taylor and his son Peter were extradited from the United States to Japan and will appear in the Tokyo District Court on Monday afternoon.

The two men face up to three years in prison if convicted of setting up the daring escape of the former auto mogul, whose arrest in Tokyo in 2018 on financial misconduct charges made headlines around the world.

Ghosn was out on bail while awaiting trial on four counts of financial misconduct, which he denies, when he managed to pass authorities on a private jet, transit Turkey and land in Lebanon, which does not have an extradition treaty with Japan.

The escape was enormously embarrassing for Japanese authorities, and prosecutors have called it “one of the most blatant and best-orchestrated escape acts in recent history.”

The Taylors, along with a Lebanese national still at large, are suspected of orchestrating the December 2019 escape, including putting Ghosn inside a box of audio equipment to take him to the private jet.

Michael, 60, and Peter, 28, fought for his extradition to Tokyo claiming they could face conditions similar to torture, but have not commented on their case since arriving in early March.

They could file their pleas later Monday after prosecutors issue opening remarks.

Tokyo Deputy Chief Prosecutor Hiroshi Yamamoto declined to comment on his arraignment, but local media said both men admitted to wrongdoing during questioning.

Ghosn still at large

Public broadcaster NHK has said Peter received 144 million yen ($ 1.3 million) from the Ghosns for his help.

The Asahi Shimbun newspaper said the couple spent most of the money preparing for the escape, including the costs of chartering a private jet, claiming they were not paid for their help.

Ghosn remains at large in Lebanon, where he was questioned last month by French investigators for a series of alleged financial irregularities.

Among the allegations are improper financial interactions with the Renault-Nissan dealer in Oman, payments from a Dutch subsidiary to consultants and lavish parties organized at the Palace of Versailles.

The questioning took place with his defense team and a Lebanese prosecutor present. Ghosn was heard as a witness, as he would have to be in France to be formally charged.

Others involved in the Ghosn case have faced legal proceedings, including his former Nissan assistant Greg Kelly, who is also on trial in Tokyo for his alleged role in failing to report the tycoon’s income.

And a Turkish court sentenced two pilots and another employee of a small private airline to four years and two months in prison for their role in Ghosn’s escape.

Ghosn changed planes in Turkey on his way to Lebanon, and the three Turks were accused of being involved in a conspiracy to smuggle a migrant.

(AFP)