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American tells Tokyo court it regrets helping Ghosn flee Japan By Reuters

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© Reuters. Former fugitive auto executive Carlos Ghosn gestures while speaking during an interview with Reuters in Beirut, Lebanon, on June 14, 2021. REUTERS / Mohamed Azakir / Files

TOKYO (Reuters) – U.S. Army Special Forces veteran Michael Taylor told a Tokyo court on Tuesday that he regretted helping Carlos Ghosn flee Japan and said the former president of Nissan (OTC: ) Motor Co Ltd should have stayed to face trial for alleged financial misconduct.

Flanked by two guards, Taylor, who was brought to court in handcuffs with his son Peter, bowed deeply to the three judges who will decide his sentence, asking that he be allowed to return to the United States to see his disabled father.

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

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

This month, the two men pleaded guilty to charges that, in December 2019, they illegally helped Ghosn escape from Kansai airport in western Japan, hidden 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 had been held and face up to three years in prison.

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, helped persuade him to take the job. He also said he felt sympathy for Ghosn and his wife Carole after they told him that Ghosn could be detained in Japan for up to 15 years.

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

Attorneys for the Taylors in the United States fought a months-long battle to avoid their extradition, arguing that they could not be prosecuted for helping someone “bail out” and could face incessant questioning and torture.

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 Nissan’s financial statements by 9.3 billion yen ($ 84 million) over a decade and enriched himself at his employer’s expense through payments to car dealers.

Ghosn denies wrongdoing and remains a fugitive in his childhood home, Lebanon, 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.

($ 1 = 110.6600 yen)

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