A Tokyo court on Monday sentenced US Army Special Forces veteran Michael Taylor to two years in prison and his son to one year and eight months for helping former Nissan Motor Co Ltd chairman Carlos Ghosn flee Japan, where he had faced charges of financial misconduct.
Michael Taylor and his son Peter pleaded guilty and apologised to the court last month saying they regretted their role in smuggling Ghosn out of Japan hidden in a box aboard a private jet from Japan’s Kansai airport.
Ghosn remains a fugitive in his childhood home of Lebanon, which doesn’t have an extradition treaty with Japan.
The sentence is the first handed down in Japan in the Nissan saga, which began with former auto tycoon Ghosn’s shock arrest in Japan in 2018 on financial misconduct allegations.
The Taylors had been facing up to three years in prison over the escape, which US prosecutors described as “one of the most brazen and well-orchestrated escape acts in recent history”.
Japanese prosecutors said earlier this month they were seeking a sentence of two years, 10 months for Michael, and two years, six months for Peter.
Their defence lawyers had argued that a suspended sentence was appropriate given their remorse.
They also argued that the pair’s 10-month detention in the United States before extradition should be considered in sentencing. The Taylors arrived in Tokyo in March after losing their battle against extradition.
At their first hearing, in June, prosecutors described the almost-cinematic details of the operation – Ghosn was hidden in a large case with air holes drilled into it to slip past security at an airport.
Ghosn told the BBC recently about the experience, describing the half-hour in the box waiting for the plane to take off as “probably the longest wait I’ve ever experienced in my life”.
A third man, identified as George Antoine Zayek, is also accused of involvement in the escape but remains at large.
According to the prosecution, the Ghosn family paid the Taylors more than $860,000 for preparation and logistical costs, and $500,000 in cryptocurrency for lawyers’ fees.
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS and AFP)