Americans who helped Ghosn escape from Japan to be sentenced

The father-son team that smuggled Carlos Ghosn out of Japan in a large musical-equipment case are set to be sentenced Monday for helping Nissan Motor Co.’s former chairman flee trial in 2019.

Prosecutors recommended a sentence of two years and 10 months for Michael Taylor, the father and a former U.S. Green Beret, at a hearing earlier this month. The son, Peter Taylor, should receive a two-year, six-month sentence, they said.

Both have pleaded guilty to charges of aiding Ghosn’s escape to Beirut, a development that was just as shocking as the November 2018 arrest of the auto executive for alleged financial crimes. With Ghosn out of reach — Lebanon doesn’t extradite its citizens — the two have 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 the charges.

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

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.

Defense lawyers for the Taylors, who were detained for about 10 months in the U.S. before their extradition, are seeking a suspended sentence. Ghosn was the one behind the scenes and did all the major planning, Keiji Isaji, an attorney for the Taylors, said.

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 have been placed in solitary confinement in a detention center and are attending hearings at the Tokyo District Court.

The crime of harboring or enabling the escape of a criminal carries a maximum sentence of three years in prison in Japan, though experts have suggested that pleading guilty, showing remorse and cooperating with prosecutors may lead to lighter sentencing.

The duo apologized 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 organized 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 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 last month that he didn’t know the details of when or how Ghosn was planning to escape, and only learned of the former chairman’s flight via reports after the fact.

It remains unclear whether the time the Taylors have served in the U.S. will be factored into the judge’s final sentencing decision. The U.S. 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, according to a letter seen by Bloomberg News. Prosecutors have argued that time spent shouldn’t be reason for a more lenient sentence.

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