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American duo tell Tokyo court they regret helping Ghosn flee Japan

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TOKYO – U.S. Army Special Forces veteran Michael Taylor and his son Peter told a Tokyo court on Tuesday that they regretted helping former Nissan Motor Co Ltd chairman Carlos Ghosn flee Japan, where he was facing trial for alleged financial crimes.

Flanked by guards, the two men who were brought to court in handcuffs, bowed deeply to the three judges who will decide their sentence and asked that they be allowed to return to the United States to see their families.

“I deeply regret my actions and sincerely apologize for causing difficulties for the judicial system and the Japanese people,” said the older Taylor in a shaky voice.

He answered yes when asked by the prosecutor if he believed Ghosn should have stayed in Japan.

“I spent more than 400 days in jail and had a lot of time to reflect. I take full responsibility and deeply regret my actions, ”his son Peter told the judges.

The two men pleaded guilty earlier this month to charges that in December 2019 they had illegally helped Ghosn escape from Kansai airport in western Japan, hiding in a box aboard a private plane to Lebanon.

Extradited to Japan from the United States in March, they are being held in the same Tokyo jail where Ghosn was held and face up to three years in prison.

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Prosecutors said the Taylors received $ 1.3 million for their services and another $ 500,000 for legal fees.

The older Taylor said Tuesday that Ghosn’s cousin, who is his wife’s sister-in-law and Peter’s godmother, helped persuade him to take the job.

He added that he felt sympathy for Ghosn and his wife Carole after they told him that Ghosn could be held in Japan for up to 15 years.

The couple, he said, told him that skipping bail in Japan was not a crime.

His son said he had met Ghosn three times in Tokyo in 2019 before the latter fled, but the two had not specifically discussed the escape plan. He had “felt used” by Ghosn, he told the court.

Attorneys for the Taylors in the United States waged a months-long battle against their extradition, arguing that they could not be prosecuted for helping someone fail to pay bail and that they could face relentless interrogation and torture.

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Suspects in Japan are questioned without the presence of their lawyers and are often denied bail before trial.

When asked by prosecutors if he had been treated badly in Japan, Taylor said the prosecutor who questioned him after his arrest was “respectable and honorable.”

At the time of his escape, Ghosn was awaiting trial on charges that he underestimated his compensation in the financial statements of automaker Nissan by 9.3 billion yen ($ 84 million) over a decade and enriched himself at the expense of your employer through payments to auto dealerships.

Ghosn, who denies wrongdoing, is at large in Lebanon, his childhood home, which has no extradition treaty with Japan.

Greg Kelly, a former Nissan executive tasked with helping Ghosn hide his compensation, is also on trial in Tokyo. He also denies the charges.

The Taylors will appear in court on Friday. ($ 1 = 110.66 yen) (Reporting by Tim Kelly; Edited by Clarence Fernandez)

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