Three Turkish airline workers have been sentenced for their involvement in the dramatic escape of former Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn from Japan.
The Istanbul court sentenced two pilots and a director of the private charter company MNG Jet to four years and two months in prison for human trafficking. They will likely avoid jail time after already serving six months in pre-trial detention.
The court acquitted four other employees – two other pilots and two flight attendants – 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 arrested Ghosn in November 2018 for underestimating tens of millions of dollars in compensation and embezzling company funds while at the helm of the country’s second-largest automaker.
Ghosn skipped his bail in December 2019 while hiding in a loaded box on a private jet that ultimately took him to his childhood home in Lebanon, which does not have an 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 convicted in Turkey are free pending an appeal against their conviction. Even if the verdict is upheld, the men should not serve a sentence after spending half of last year in jail before trial and because they had no previous criminal record, lawyer Erem Yucel said .
Osaka-Istanbul flight pilot Noyan Pasin said he believed
that his conviction was an attempt to “save the face of Japan and Turkey” and avoid a diplomatic incident. He denied knowing that Ghosn was hiding in the plane’s cargo.
“We are the only ones in the world to have been blamed and condemned
in connection with [Ghosn’s escape], “he said.” No one working for security, customs or immigration at the Japanese airport has been tried. “
“While Ghosn is comfortably living his life in Beirut. . . my life has
been totally disturbed, ”said Pasin, who is no longer able to find
work as a pilot.
The trial of the Turkish flight crew is just one of the international cases arising from Ghosn’s tenure at Nissan and his escape. In Tokyo, former Nissan director Greg Kelly, an American arrested on the same day as Ghosn, is on trial for allegedly helping Ghosn hide his salary.
In the United States, US Army Special Forces veteran Michael Taylor and his son Peter Taylor are fighting extradition to Japan. They are accused of orchestrating the escape plot.
The United States Supreme Court this month denied the Taylors’ emergency request to stay a lower court order allowing their extradition. Lawyers for the men have now called on the US State Department to intervene, Reuters reported.
MNG Jet admitted that two of its jets were used to bring Ghosn from Osaka to Istanbul and then to Lebanon. But the Istanbul-based company accused its COO, Okan Kosemen, of arranging the contract without management’s knowledge. Kosemen was among the men convicted on Wednesday.
Prior to his ouster, Ghosn enjoyed celebrity status in Japan for saving Nissan from the brink of bankruptcy in 1999 following an alliance between the Japanese company and French automaker Renault, which he joined in 1996. Ghosn resigned as chief executive of Nissan in 2017 but continued in his role as chairman until his arrest. He and his family remain in Beirut.