Video grab image shows Michael Taylor foreground facing camera, and George Antoine Zayek at passport control in Istanbul Airport. The two men are accused of helping fugitive businessman Carlos Ghosn escape to Beirut via an Istanbul airport as he fled a corruption trial in Japan late in 2019. Taylor and his son Peter, also charged, have been convicted in a Japan court and now face nearly three years' imprisonment. Photo: AFP

Japanese prosecutors said Friday they are seeking jail sentences of nearly three years for an American father-son duo who admit helping former Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn jump bail and flee Japan.

The prosecutors told a Tokyo court they are seeking a sentence of two years, 10 months for former special forces operative Michael Taylor, and two years, six months for his son Peter.

“Michael Taylor … played a leading role. His responsibility is extremely grave,” one of the prosecutors said, calling Ghosn’s “unprecedented” December 2019 escape a “sophisticated and bold crime.”

“The case considerably infringed upon our country’s criminal justice,” he added.

The Taylors have been in custody since their arrest in May 2020 in the United States for helping smuggle Ghosn onto a private jet in an audio equipment case so he could fly to Lebanon, which has no extradition agreement with Japan.

Ghosn had led Nissan for nearly two decades, earning celebrity status as a rare foreign executive to thrive in Japan – until he was arrested in 2018 on allegations of financial crimes, which he denies.

The Taylors, who had faced a maximum of three years in jail each, were extradited to Japan earlier this year.

They first appeared in court last month, when they admitted to helping orchestrate Ghosn’s audacious flight.

Earlier this week, the Taylors said they now “regret” their role in Ghosn’s escape, bowing deeply in court as they apologized, according to local media.

The former auto tycoon, who remains an international fugitive in Lebanon, was out on bail while awaiting trial on four counts of financial misconduct when he fled, transiting in Turkey before arriving in Lebanon.

The escape was hugely embarrassing for Japanese authorities. US prosecutors called it “one of the most brazen and well-orchestrated escape acts in recent history.”

Ghosn was questioned last month by French investigators in Lebanon over a series of alleged financial improprieties.

His former Nissan aide Greg Kelly is on trial in Tokyo over allegations he helped underreport Ghosn’s salary. A verdict in his case is expected later this year.

Michael and Peter Taylor in a file photo. Image: Screengrab Youtube

From his shock detention to an audacious escape from Japan, the rollercoaster saga of former Ghosn made headlines around the world. Here are the key dates to know:

– November 2018: Ghosn arrested –

Ghosn and his aide Greg Kelly are arrested on suspicion of financial misconduct on November 19, after arriving in Tokyo on separate private planes.

They are accused of devising a scheme to under-report the salary of Ghosn – then Nissan chief and head of an alliance between Renault, Nissan and Mitsubishi Motors.

The pair deny wrongdoing. Ghosn is swiftly removed from his role at all three firms in a stunning fall from grace for one of the world’s best-known businessmen.

– December 2018: More allegations – 

Ghosn and Kelly are charged with under-reporting Ghosn’s salary between 2010 and 2015, then are immediately rearrested on allegations of under-reporting up to 2018.

On December 21, Ghosn is arrested again on fresh allegations that he transferred losses from personal financial investments to Nissan.

His detention, in conditions far removed from his flashy lifestyle, is extended.

– March 2019: Bail for Ghosn –

Ghosn attends his first court hearing in January, insisting the accusations are “meritless and unsubstantiated.”

His first bail request is denied, and on January 11 two new charges of financial misconduct are filed against him.

The disgraced tycoon tells AFP from prison that his detention would “not be normal in any other democracy.”

On March 5, the court approves Ghosn’s third request for bail, set at one billion yen ($9 million).

– April 2019: Rearrest, bailed again –

Ghosn is rearrested in a dawn raid of his Tokyo apartment in April.

Authorities hit him with a charge of aggravated breach of trust, alleging he siphoned money for personal ends from cash transferred from Nissan to a dealership in Oman.

On April 25, the court grants Ghosn a second bail of $4.5 million. He is banned from leaving Japan and requires court permission to see his wife.

– September 2019: US charges –

On September 9, Nissan CEO Hiroto Saikawa resigns amid allegations that he also padded his salary. He denies wrongdoing but apologizes.

Ghosn and Nissan are accused by US securities regulators of hiding more than $140 million of his expected retirement income from investors.

Ghosn is fined $1 million, and Nissan says it will pay $15 million.

– December 2019: Ghosn jumps bail – 

Just before New Year’s Eve, Ghosn gives authorities in Japan the slip, hiding in an audio equipment case to flee on a private plane.

He eventually lands in Lebanon, which does not have an extradition treaty with Japan.

A week later, Ghosn says Nissan colluded with prosecutors to have him arrested because he wanted to deepen the Japanese firm’s alliance with Renault. He says he fled because he did not believe he would get a fair trial.

– 2020: Accomplices held, Kelly on trial –

Two men accused of helping Ghosn flee Japan – former US special forces member Michael Taylor and his son Peter – are arrested in the United States in May.

In September, a US judge rules extradition proceedings can move forward, as the trial against Kelly begins in Tokyo on a single charge of under-reporting Ghosn’s compensation.

Kelly denies wrongdoing and pleads not guilty, while Nissan, on trial as a firm on the same charge, pleads guilty.

– June 2021: Taylors on trial –

Michael and Peter Taylor lose their battle against extradition and are handed over to Japanese prosecutors, landing in the country in March.

The pair appear in a Tokyo court for the first time on June 14. They face up to three years in prison if convicted.

On July 2, prosecutors call for a sentence of two years, 10 months for Michael Taylor, and two years, six months for Peter.