An American and his son have pleaded guilty to helping former Nissan Chairman Carlos Ghosn flee Japan in late 2019, as part of a Hollywood operation that included planes, trains and boxes.
Former US Special Forces soldier Michael Taylor and his son Peter – who are being held in the same prison where Ghosn was held – responded to the judge’s question about the charges against them in the affirmative.
The public prosecutor accused the two men of helping Ghosn escape punishment and escape to Lebanon via the Japanese Kansai Airport, and said that they received $ 1.3 million in exchange for this, and part of this amount went to an advertising company owned by the son.
At the time of his escape, Ghosn was awaiting trial on charges of not disclosing – in Nissan’s financial statements – the 9.3 billion yen ($85 million) he had received over 10 years, and of enriching himself at the company’s expense.
Despite the large number of questions that journalists asked at a press conference to Ghosn – who currently lives in one of his many homes in Lebanon – Ghosn refused to disclose any details related to his escape.
He only said that he “had no choice” but to escape from Japan, where he was “considered guilty” before the charges against him were proven, and after he spent 130 days in prison.
According to Agence France-Presse, the process of Ghosn’s escape began with his simply leaving his luxurious home in central Tokyo on December 29, 2019, according to a video recording taken by a surveillance camera.
According to Japanese media, he met American citizens at a nearby hotel, and the three took one of the “Shinkansen” express trains from the famous Shinagawa neighborhood in Tokyo to Osaka (western Japan), a trip that lasted about 3 hours.
The three headed to a hotel near Kansai International Airport, where CCTV footage showed the Americans leaving alone, carrying two “big boxes” that Ghosn appeared to have been inside.
He departed on a private plane, which Turkish investigators said was a Bombardier marked TC-TSR, which landed in Istanbul at 05:15 a.m. local time on December 30, 2019.
A photo released by Istanbul police shows the two boxes Ghosn is believed to have used in his escape.
A Japanese transport ministry official told AFP that baggage checks were not usually necessary for operators of private aircraft, and that the two boxes appeared to be too large to pass on x-ray machines at the airport.
And the American newspaper “The Wall Street Journal” reported – quoting sources close to the investigations in Turkey – that holes were drilled in the box in which Ghosn was carried so that he could breathe.
In his book, Ghosn said he “began to feel that success is possible” when he arrived on the tarmac, and said “the sound of the plane was the sound of hope.”
And the Turkish news agency “DHA” reported that Ghosn boarded in Istanbul a second private plane to Beirut, the “Bombardier Challenger 300 TC-RZA”, and it left after 45 minutes.
Two Turkish pilots and an employee of a Turkish airline were convicted of 4 years and two months in prison for their role in Ghosn’s smuggling, while two other pilots were acquitted in the case.
Despite Ghosn’s insistence not to disclose information about his method of smuggling, Japanese prosecutors found that he was helped by Taylor and his son, as well as a third man named Anthony Zayek, who is currently on the run.
Ghosn describes himself as a symbol of globalization, and holds 3 nationalities: French, Lebanese and Brazilian.
Under the terms of his release on bail in Tokyo, his lawyers keep his passports.
But an informed source said that the Tokyo court allowed Ghosn to keep his French passport, provided that it be placed “in a locked bag” whose key would remain with his lawyer.
The aim was to enable him to prove his status as a holder of a short-term visa in case he needed to do so during his travels in Japan, which is permitted by the terms of his sponsorship.
It seems that he used it to enter Lebanon, as airport documents seen by Agence France-Presse show that he entered with a French passport.
The Japanese authorities confirmed that Ghosn’s exit from the country was never registered, which reinforces the hypothesis of his travel inside a box.
The International Police (Interpol) issued a “red notice” to arrest Ghosn, but there is no agreement between Beirut and Tokyo to extradite the wanted persons. Lebanese officials confirm that he entered the country legally.
Ghosn was forced to apologize in Lebanon for his visit to Israel in 2008 when he was at the head of the Renault-Nissan alliance.
Laws in Lebanon prohibit its citizens from traveling to Israel, where the countries are officially at war.
A source familiar with the case in Japan said that the trial related to financial irregularities suspected of having been committed by Greg Kelly, a confidant of Ghosn and Nissan, will take place as scheduled.
Ghosn denies all the charges against him, and has spoken of “collusion” between Japanese prosecutors and Nissan officials to prevent the company from getting too close to France’s Renault.
At the beginning of this month, French judges heard Ghosn’s statements in Beirut regarding alleged financial irregularities, but he said that he considered these procedures fair.