Three employees of a Turkish airline have been convicted of their involvement in the dramatic escape of former Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn from Japan.
The Istanbul court sentenced two pilots and a manager of the private charter company MNG Jet to four years and two months in prison for human trafficking. They are likely to avoid jail terms after having spent six months in pre-trial detention.
The court acquitted four other employees – two other pilots and two flight attendants – who were on trial for aiding the executive’s daring escape from Osaka, Japan, to Beirut. The defendants had faced up to eight years in prison.
Japanese authorities detained Ghosn in November 2018 on charges that he undervalued tens of millions of dollars in damages and misused company funds while at the helm of the country’s second-largest automaker.
Ghosn jumped bail in December 2019 by hiding in a box loaded into a private jet that eventually took him to his family home in Lebanon, which has no extradition treaty with Japan. Ghosn has denied the charges and said he fled because he would not have had a fair trial in Japan.
Those found guilty in Turkey are free pending an appeal against their conviction. Even if the sentence is upheld, the men are expected not to serve time after spending half of last year in prison prior to trial and because they had no previous criminal record, attorney Erem Yucel said.
Noyan Pasin, a pilot on the Osaka-Istanbul flight, said he believed
that his belief was an attempt to “save face for Japan and Turkey” and avoid a diplomatic incident. He denied knowing that Ghosn was hiding in the cargo of the plane.
“We are the only ones in the world who have been accused and convicted
in connection with [Ghosn’s escape], “he said.” No one who works at the Japanese airport with security, customs or immigration has been tried.
While Ghosn comfortably lives his life in Beirut. Has my life
totally disrupted, ”said Pasin, who cannot find anymore
work as a pilot.
The Turkish flight crew trial is just one of the international cases resulting from Ghosn’s tenure with Nissan and his escape. In Tokyo, former Nissan director Greg Kelly, an American who was arrested on the same day as Ghosn, is on trial for allegedly helping Ghosn hide his wages.
In the United States, US Army special forces veteran Michael Taylor and his son Peter Taylor are fighting against extradition to Japan. They are accused of devising the escape plan.
The U.S. Supreme Court this month rejected the Taylors’ emergency request to interrupt a lower court order that would allow their extradition. Lawyers for the men have now asked the US State Department to intervene, Reuters reported.
MNG Jet admitted that two of its jets were used to take Ghosn from Osaka to Istanbul and then to Lebanon. But the Istanbul-based company accused its operations manager, Okan Kosemen, of arranging the contract without the knowledge of senior management. Kosemen was one of the men sentenced on Wednesday.
Before his impeachment, Ghosn enjoyed celebrity status in Japan for rescuing Nissan from the brink of bankruptcy in 1999 following an alliance between the Japanese company and French carmaker Renault, which he joined in 1996. Ghosn stepped down as CEO of Nissan in 2017, but continued. his role as chairman until his arrest. He and his family stay in Beirut.