Prosecutors recommended a more than two-year sentence for two Americans who helped former Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn flee trial in Japan in 2019.
Of the father-son duo who pleaded guilty to charges of aiding Ghosn's escape to Lebanon, Michael Taylor, the father, should receive a two year, 10-month sentence and Peter Taylor, the son, should receive a two year, six-month sentence, prosecutors said at a hearing Friday.
"The charges against Carlos Ghosn are serious," Prosecutor Ryozo Kitajima said of the accusations of financial misconduct that Ghosn was facing in Japan. Due to the actions of the Taylors "the ability to go after the truth has been blocked," he said.
Ghosn's escape was "systematically" planned over the course of more than half a year and while Michael led the operation, Peter's role was also significant, Kitajima said.
The Taylors' defense lawyers said they should receive a suspended sentence. The pair have already been detained for about 10 months in the U.S. and Ghosn was the one behind the scenes doing all of the major planning, the defense's Keiji Isaji said.
A verdict and sentence is expected July 19.
The recommendation on sentencing brings the Taylors one step closer to the end of a lengthy period of incarceration and legal battles they have faced since helping Ghosn escape Japan in a box at the end of 2019. After spending time in jail in the U.S. and fighting extradition charges, the pair were brought to Japan in March. The two have been placed in solitary confinement in a detention center in Tokyo while attending hearings at a district court that began in June.
The crime of harboring or enabling the escape of a criminal carries a maximum sentence of three years in prison in Japan, though experts on their case had suggested that pleading guilty, showing remorse, and cooperating with prosecutors would lead to lighter sentencing.
The duo apologized to prosecutors and Japan's justice system in a hearing earlier this week. Helping Ghosn flee was a mistake, they both said. They apologized again on Friday. "I stand here today as a man whose life has been destroyed," Michael Taylor said, sobbing. "No one will stand before you and be more remorseful and sorry than me and my son."
Michael has never denied his involvement in Ghosn's escape, speaking about how he organized and carried out the brazen operation in court. Peter's role is less clear.
Money used to pay for Ghosn's escape was transferred through Peter's company and he met with the former auto executive several times in the months leading up to, and on the day of, the escape, according to prosecutors. But Peter testified in court earlier this week that he did not know the details of when or how Ghosn was planning to escape, and only learned of the former chairman's flight via media reports after the fact.
It remains unclear whether the time the Taylors have served in the U.S. will be factored into the judge's final sentencing decision. The U.S. State Department said it would inform the Japanese government of the amount of time the Taylors had served so that it could be taken into account, according to a letter seen by Bloomberg News. Prosecutors said Friday that time spent should not be reason for a more lenient sentence.