An American father and son team that helped former Nissan Chairman Carlos Ghosn escape Japan in a case for musical instruments in 2019 has received prison sentences in Japan, months after the pair was extradited to face charges relating to the dramatic escape. Michael Taylor received a prison sentence of two years for his role in the escape, while his son Peter Taylor received a sentence of one year and eight months.
Ghosn escaped house arrest in Japan in December 2019 using a taxi, a bullet train, and a private jet flight, over a year after he was charged with under-reporting his compensation and other related charges, mostly concerning use of company-expensed transportation. The executive had been awaiting trial in Japan when he was able to board a specially chartered private jet at Kansai airport—reportedly picked for its lax security—by hiding in a large travel case for audio equipment carried by others.
Taylor and his son were later identified by Japanese officials, days after Ghosn arrived in Lebanon after transiting through Turkey, and in May of 2020 were arrested in Massachusetts and were later extradited to Japan to face charges relating to the escape. Ghosn is believed to have remained in Lebanon since the escape, unable to travel easily after his passports were issued a red notice by Interpol.
Prosecutors in Japan sought slightly higher prison terms for the two men, ranging between two and three years without consideration for time served during their time in custody prior to the trial, including almost a year in US custody prior to the start of their trial in Japan. The Taylors ended up receiving slightly shorter terms than what the prosecution asked for, while the defense was unsuccessful in its request of suspended sentences for the two in addition to time served. During the trial prosecutors argued that the two received some $1.3 million for their services.
The case attracted quite a bit of media attention for a number of reasons, including the fact that the prosecutors in Japan were able to secure the extradition of American citizens and charge them with crimes stemming from aiding an escape from house arrest. The case also prompted arguments that only the high-profile nature of the fugitive prompted Japan to seek extradition of his helpers on foreign soil and to seek maximum sentences for the two. Japan was also reported to have exercised diplomatic pressure on Turkey to prosecute airline personnel for their roles in the escape, including four pilots and two flight attendants, as Ghosn transited through Istanbul’s airport on his way to Lebanon.
Some observers had noted that it’s difficult to picture Japan expending this much effort pursuing the convictions of co-conspirators for white collar charges in a case that didn’t count Ghosn as the defendant.
In the months since his escape to Lebanon, Ghosn has made a number of statements alleging that Japan’s prosecution was politically motivated, prompted by his plans to bring Nissan and Renault closer together—a move allegedly opposed by other Nissan executives as well as the Japanese government, according to Ghosn.
“One of the reasons I’m in this situation today is that I accepted this offer to continue to integrate the two companies, to converge the two companies,” Ghosn claimed in a press conference in January 2020, weeks after his escape.
Ghosn also criticized the Japanese justice system, including his 130-day stint in solitary confinement, which was achieved by repeated re-arrests by Japanese police on new charges.
Ghosn’s case has also been said to be an embarrassment for Japan, as much for allowing Ghosn to escape, as for not quite disproving Ghosn’s arguments that the country’s court system operates via “hostage justice,” and that it pursued his co-conspirators overseas as a form of revenge, being unable to extradite Ghosn himself.
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