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TOKYO (Reuters) – An American father-and-son duo acknowledged their role in orchestrating former Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn’s daring escape during his first appearance in court in Tokyo on Monday.
Former Special Forces member Michael Taylor, 60, and his son Peter, 28, have been extradited by US authorities for claiming to have smuggled Ghosn out of the country in a music equipment case while he was awaiting trial.
At the Tokyo District Court, the two men said they did not dispute the facts laid out by prosecutors in an indictment, effectively conceding their role in the saga.
“Is there a mistake in what the prosecutor just read?” The judge asked each in turn. Both said no.
Michael Taylor was led into the courtroom first, his hands cuffed in front of him. He was wearing plastic slippers, dark pants, and a white shirt without a tie.
Her son was brought in afterwards, with both men wearing face masks.
The couple face up to three years in prison if convicted of aiding Ghosn – currently an international fugitive living in Lebanon, who does not have an extradition treaty with Japan.
Ghosn was on bail awaiting trial on four counts of financial misconduct, which he denies when he managed to pass authorities in a private jet, transit through Turkey and land in Lebanon.
On Monday, prosecutors again exposed the almost cinematic details of the December 2019 escape, including the fact that the Taylors hid Ghosn in a case to get him through airport security.
“You helped him escape,” he told the two men, who listened to the proceedings through a translation headset.
Ghosn’s robbery was extremely embarrassing to Japanese authorities, with US prosecutors calling it “one of the most brazen and best-orchestrated acts of escape in recent history.”
The Taylors fought their extradition to Tokyo, saying they could face conditions bordering on torture, and have not commented on their case since arriving in early March.
Local prosecutors declined to comment on their pre-trial indictment, but Japanese media said both men admitted to wrongdoing during questioning.
Public broadcaster NHK said Peter received 144 million yen ($ 1.3 million) from the Ghosns for their assistance.
The Asahi Shimbun daily said the couple spent most of the money on preparations for the escape, including the cost of chartering a private jet, saying they were not paid for. their help.
Ghosn is still at large in Lebanon, where he was questioned last month by French investigators over a series of alleged financial irregularities.
The allegations include inappropriate financial interactions with Renault-Nissan’s distributor in Oman, payments by a Dutch subsidiary to consultants and lavish parties at the Palace of Versailles.
The interrogation took place in the presence of his defense team and a Lebanese prosecutor. Ghosn was heard as a witness because he would need to be in France to be formally charged.
Others involved in the Ghosn case have faced legal action, including his former Nissan aide Greg Kelly, who is also on trial in Tokyo over his alleged role in the tycoon’s under-reporting of 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 charged with involvement in a conspiracy to smuggle a migrant.
A Lebanese national who is still at large is also suspected of having orchestrated Ghosn’s flight from Japan.