TOKYO (Reuters) – U.S. Army Special Forces veteran Michael Taylor told a Tokyo court on Tuesday he regretted helping Carlos Ghosn flee Japan and said the former Nissan Motor Co Ltd chairman should have stayed to face trial for alleged financial misconduct.
Flanked by two guards, Taylor, who was brought handcuffed into court with his son Peter, bowed deeply to the three judges that will decide their sentence, asking that they allow him to return to the United States to see his disabled father.
“I deeply regret my actions and sincerely apologise for causing difficulties for the judicial system and for the Japanese people,” he said in a quavering voice.
Taylor replied yes when the prosecutor asked whether he believed Ghosn should have stayed in Japan.
The two men this month pleaded guilty to charges that, in December 2019, they illegally helped Ghosn escape from western Japan’s Kansai airport hidden in a box aboard a private jet to Lebanon.
Extradited to Japan from the United States in March, they are being detained at the same jail in Tokyo 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 elder Taylor on Tuesday said a cousin of Ghosn, 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 held in Japan for up to 15 years.
The couple, he said, told him jumping bail in Japan was not a crime.
The Taylors’ lawyers in the United States waged a months-long battle to prevent their extradition, arguing they could not be prosecuted for helping someone “bail jump” and that they could face relentless interrogation and torture.
Suspects in Japan are interrogated without their lawyers present 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 honourable”.
At the time of his escape, Ghosn was awaiting trial on charges that he understated 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 dealerships.
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 charged with helping Ghosn hide his compensation, is also standing trial in Tokyo. He also denies the charges.
($1 = 110.6600 yen)
(Reporting by Tim Kelly; Editing by Christopher Cushing)
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