EXPLAINER: Who are Americans on trial in Ghosn’s escape – About Your Online Magazine

ARCHIVE – This December 30, 2019 security camera video footage shows Michael L. Taylor, downtown, and George-Antoine Zayek at passport control at Istanbul Airport, Turkey. Americans Michael Taylor and his son Peter Taylor go on trial in Tokyo on Monday, June 14, 2021, on suspicion they helped former Nissan president Carlos Ghosn jump bail in Japan and flee to Lebanon in December 2019. (DHA via AP, Archive)

TOKYO (AP) – Americans Michael Taylor and his son Peter Taylor go on trial in Tokyo on Monday on charges they helped former Nissan president Carlos Ghosn jump bail and flee to Lebanon in December 2019 .


The Taylors were arrested in Massachusetts in May 2020 and extradited to Japan in March. They have not been released on bail and are not available for comment, which is standard in Japan. They were formally charged ​​in March with helping to escape a criminal. Michael Taylor, a former Green Beret, told the Associated Press while still in the US that Peter was not in Japan when Ghosn fled the country. Elder Taylor helped parents rescue kidnapped children, went undercover for the FBI, and worked as a contractor for the US military in Iraq and Afghanistan.


Ghosn led Japanese automaker Nissan Motor Co. for two decades before his arrest in Tokyo in November 2018. He was accused of falsifying securities reports by underreporting his compensation and for breaching trust. He says he is innocent and that the compensation he is accused of not having reported was never decided or paid. Ghosn says he feared not getting a fair trial in Japan, where more than 99% of criminal cases result in convictions. Japanese prosecutors say he paid at least $1.3 million to organize his escape. Ghosn is on Interpol’s wanted list, but Japan has no extradition treaty with Lebanon.


Tokyo prosecutors say Michael Taylor and another man, George-Antoine Zayek, hid Ghosn in a large box designed to transport audio equipment, sneaked through airport security in central Japan’s Osaka, and loaded him onto a private jet. to Turkey. Peter Taylor is accused of meeting with Ghosn to aid his escape. Zayek was not arrested. A US appeals court rejected the Taylors’ petition to suspend extradition.


The Taylors will undergo the Japanese equivalent of filing an argument before a panel of three judges. They can also give statements. They said they didn’t break any laws because jumping bail isn’t technically illegal in Japan. But Ghosn shouldn’t leave the country. Deputy Chief Prosecutor Hiroshi Yamamoto said prosecutors will outline the charges, but he declined to comment specifically on the case. Japanese suspects are tried even if they plead guilty.

The Taylors are being held at the Tokyo Detention Center on the outskirts of the city. Their lawyer can visit them and they can receive snacks and books. Ghosn spent more than 100 days at the center before being released on bail. The cells are simple, with Japanese-style futon mattresses. The facility has an exercise area and clinic.


English translations will be provided and media coverage will be allowed, but no filming or recording. If convicted, the Taylors face up to three years in prison and a fine of up to 300,000 yen ($2,900). They can also get suspended sentences and not serve time. In principle, people accused of crimes in Japan are considered innocent until proven guilty. But the conviction rate is over 99%.


Former Nissan executive Greg Kelly, also an American, is on trial on charges of falsifying bond reports in underreporting Ghosn’s pay. He says he is innocent and was trying to find legal ways to pay Ghosn, in part to prevent him from leaving Nissan for a rival automaker. Kelly’s trial began in September and a verdict is not expected for months. If convicted, Kelly faces up to 15 years in prison.


During an interview in Lebanon in May, Ghosn told the Associated Press he was eager to clear his name. He refused to give details of his escape. Ghosn accuses other Nissan executives of conspiring to force him out to prevent him from giving his French partner, Renault, more power in their alliance. Renault sent Ghosn to Japan in 1999 to rescue the automaker when it was on the brink of bankruptcy.


Nissan, which makes the Leaf electric car, Z sports car and Infiniti luxury models, has struggled with declining sales during the pandemic. It expects to remain in the red this fiscal year, the third consecutive year of losses. Ghosn’s successors promised a turnaround.


Yuri Kageyama is on Twitter https://twitter.com/yurikageyama

Paula Fonseca