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Americans plead guilty to helping ex-Nissan boss Ghosn flee Japan

Former Green Beret and son do not dispute charge at first court hearing in Tokyo

Michael L. Taylor, center, and George-Antoine Zayek at passport control at Istanbul Airport in Turkey in 2019. Michael Taylor and his son Peter went on trial on June 14, 2021, in Tokyo.   © AP

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Two American men charged with aiding former Nissan Motor Chairman Carlos Ghosn's escape from Japan in 2019 before his trial pleaded guilty at their first court hearing Monday in Tokyo.

Before appearing at the Tokyo District Court, Michael Taylor, a 60-year-old former Green Beret, and his son Peter, 28, had said they helped Ghosn to escape after they were asked by Ghosn's wife Carole, 54, a person familiar with the matter has said.

According to the indictment, the father and son helped Ghosn, 67, flee from his residence in Tokyo's Minato Ward to a hotel in the capital and then another in Osaka Prefecture on Dec. 29, 2019, before making their way to Kansai International Airport. They then hid Ghosn in a box, passed through airport security and flew him aboard a private jet to Turkey despite knowing that the former auto titan was prohibited from traveling abroad under his bail conditions.

Ghosn then flew to Lebanon, one of three countries he is a national of and one that does not have an extradition treaty with Japan.

The Taylors, arrested in Massachusetts last year by U.S. authorities at Japanese prosecutors' request, had fought extradition in the U.S. courts but their appeal was turned down by the U.S. Supreme Court in February. They were arrested in Japan in March and indicted the same month.

Ghosn, who was arrested in 2018, faces charges of underreporting his remuneration by millions of yen over years and misusing Nissan funds. He has denied all charges, insisting he is the victim of a coup staged by Nissan executives. Japan has been seeking the detention of Ghosn via Interpol.

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