Michael Taylor pictured at Istanbul airport in December 2019: Taylor told a Tokyo court on Tuesday that he deeply regretted helping Carlos Ghosn to flee Japan
Michael Taylor pictured at Istanbul airport in December 2019: Taylor told a Tokyo court on Tuesday that he deeply regretted helping Carlos Ghosn to flee Japan © DHA/AP

Michael Taylor, the 60-year-old former US Green Beret, has apologised to Japan for orchestrating Carlos Ghosn’s elaborate escape to Lebanon, saying he acted out of sympathy for the former Nissan chair after hearing his claims of “psychological torture”. 

“I deeply regret my actions and sincerely apologise for causing difficulties for the judicial process and for the Japanese people. I’m sorry,” Taylor, who had been extradited from the US, told a Tokyo court on Tuesday.

There was a similar apology from his son, Peter, who stood in court jointly accused of involvement in the complex subterfuge that led to Ghosn being spirited out of Japan via a bullet train, two hotels, a private jet and a box for moving musical equipment that had been specially purposed.

“I take full responsibility and deeply apologise,” said Peter Taylor, who said he had been drawn into the project because of an emotional connection to the Ghosn family as his godmother is a relative of the former Nissan chair.

Earlier this month, the American father and his 28-year-old son pleaded guilty during their first appearance before a three-judge panel in the Tokyo District Court. They face up to three years in prison. 

Ghosn remains in Lebanon and continues to claim his daring escape was an attempt to “flee injustice”. The former head of the Renault-Nissan alliance was facing multiple charges of financial misconduct, which he denies. Ghosn remains the subject of an international arrest warrant issued by Japan, but on which Lebanon has yet to act.

In explaining why he decided to help with the escape, Michael Taylor said he “felt sympathy” for Ghosn after the former’s chairman’s wife, Carole, told him how he was being treated by Japanese authorities following his arrest in late 2018.

Ghosn’s long period of incarceration and the bail conditions that prevented him seeing his wife revived many longstanding criticisms of the way cases are built by prosecutors in Japan. But his flight to Lebanon and the Taylors’ testimony have also shown how the stringent bail conditions were broken. Ghosn allegedly communicated by mobile and held secret meetings in Tokyo with the pair.

“The torture she described was solitary confinement, questioning over and over. And they wouldn’t let husband and wife talk to each other,” Michael Taylor said, adding that Ghosn also mentioned “psychological torture” and “solitary confinement”. 

When asked by his lawyer whether he had any doubts about stories of torture, Michael Taylor said he had never been to Japan at the time and was “shocked when I heard that”. 

The extradition of the Taylors from the US to Japan was carried out under a 40-year-old treaty between the two countries but which has historically been seldom used in connection with white-collar crimes. During the process of extraditing the Taylors, which both father and son appeared to resist with every legal means, a federal judge described the conditions in Japanese prisons as “deplorable”.

But in court on Tuesday, Michael Taylor told prosecutors that, despite advice from lawyers and legal experts that the extradition was unlikely, he would actually have preferred to be sent to Japan immediately because of the “really bad” conditions in the US during the worst of the Covid-19 pandemic.

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