An American father-son duo accused of orchestrating former Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn's audacious escape from Japan admitted their role as they made their first appearance before a Tokyo court.
Former special forces operative Michael Taylor, 60, and his 28-year-old son Peter were extradited by US authorities over claims they smuggled Mr Ghosn out of the country in a music equipment case as he awaited trial.
At the Tokyo district court, the pair said they did not contest the facts laid out by prosecutors in an indictment, effectively conceding their role in the saga.
The pair face up to three years in prison if convicted of helping Mr Ghosn, who is currently an international fugitive living in Lebanon, which has no extradition treaty with Japan.
Mr Ghosn was out on bail while awaiting trial on four counts of financial misconduct, which he denies, when he managed to slip past authorities onto a private jet, transit in Turkey and land in Lebanon.
The escape was hugely embarrassing for Japanese authorities, who termed it "one of the most brazen and well-orchestrated escape acts in recent history".
The Taylors, along with a Lebanese national still at large, are suspected of orchestrating the December 2019 escape, including putting Mr Ghosn inside an audio equipment case to get him onto the private jet.
The pair fought their extradition to Tokyo, claiming they could face torture-like conditions, and have not commented on their case since arriving in early March.
Tokyo's Deputy Chief Prosecutor Hiroshi Yamamoto has declined to comment on their arraignment, but local media said both men have admitted wrongdoing during questioning.
Public broadcaster NHK has said Peter Taylor received 144 million yen (€1m) from the Ghosns for their help.
The Asahi Shimbun daily said the pair spent most of the money on preparations for the escape, including the costs of chartering a private jet, claiming that they were not paid for their help.
Mr Ghosn remains at large in Lebanon, where he was questioned last month by French investigators over a series of alleged financial improprieties.
Among the allegations are improper financial interactions with Renault-Nissan's distributor in Oman, payments by a Dutch subsidiary to consultants and lavish parties organised at the Palace of Versailles.
The questioning took place with his defence team and a Lebanese prosecutor present. Mr Ghosn was heard as a witness as he would need to be in France to be formally indicted.
Others involved in the Ghosn case have faced legal proceedings, including his former aide at Nissan, Greg Kelly, who is also on trial in Tokyo for his alleged role in under-reporting the tycoon's income.
A Turkish court has also sentenced two pilots and another employee of a small private airline to four years and two months in prison for their role in Mr Ghosn's escape.
Mr Ghosn switched planes in Turkey on his way to Lebanon, and the three Turks were charged with involvement in a conspiracy to smuggle a migrant.
Key dates in Carlos Ghosn saga
Mr Ghosn and his aide Greg Kelly were arrested on suspicion of financial misconduct on 19 November 2018, after arriving in Tokyo on separate private planes.
They are accused of devising a scheme to under-report the salary of Mr Ghosn - then Nissan chief and head of an alliance between Renault, Nissan, and Mitsubishi Motors.
The pair deny wrongdoing. Mr Ghosn was swiftly removed from his role at all three firms in a stunning fall from grace for one of the world's best-known businessmen.
Mr Ghosn and Mr Kelly are charged with under-reporting Mr Ghosn's salary between 2010 and 2015.
They were immediately rearrested on allegations of under-reporting up to 2018.
On 21 December 2018, Mr Ghosn was 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, was extended.
Mr Ghosn attended his first court hearing in January 2019, insisting the accusations are "meritless and unsubstantiated".
His first bail request was denied, and on 11 January two new charges of financial misconduct were filed against him.
The disgraced executive told AFP from prison that his detention would "not be normal in any other democracy".
On 5 March 2019, the court approved Mr Ghosn's third request for bail, set at one billion yen (€7.5m).
Mr Ghosn was rearrested in a dawn raid of his Tokyo apartment in April of that year, and authorities hit him with a further charge of aggravated breach of trust - alleging he siphoned money for personal ends from cash transferred from Nissan to a dealership in Oman.
On 25 April, the court granted Ghosn a second bail of €3.7m. He was banned from leaving Japan and required court permission to see his wife.
On 9 September 2019, Nissan CEO Hiroto Saikawa resigned amid allegations that he also padded his salary. He denied wrongdoing but apologised.
Mr Ghosn and Nissan are accused by US securities regulators of hiding more than $140m in his expected retirement income from investors.
Mr Ghosn was fined €800,000 and Nissan said it would pay €12.4m.
Just before New Year's Eve, Mr Ghosn gave authorities in Japan the slip, hiding in an instrument case to flee on a private plane.
He eventually landed in Lebanon, which does not have an extradition treaty with Japan.
A week later, Mr Ghosn said Nissan colluded with prosecutors to have him arrested because he wanted to deepen the Japanese firm's alliance with Renault.
He said he fled because he did not believe he would get a fair trial.
In 2020, the two men accused of helping Mr Ghosn flee Japan were arrested in the United States in May.
In September, a US judge ruled extradition proceedings can move forward, as the trial against Mr Kelly begins in Tokyo on a single charge of under-reporting Mr Ghosn's compensation.
Mr Kelly denied wrongdoing and pleaded not guilty, while Nissan, on trial as a firm on the same charge, pleaded guilty.
The Taylors lost their battle against extradition and are handed over to Japanese prosecutors, landing in the country in March 2021.
The pair appeared in a Tokyo court for the first time on 14 June. They face three years in prison if convicted.