A Turkish court sentenced a private airline official and two pilots on Wednesday for participating in former Nissan Motor Co. chairman Carlos Ghosn’s dramatic escape from Japan in 2019 and sentenced them each to four years and two months in prison.
The court in Istanbul acquitted two other pilots of the charge of “illegally smuggling a migrant.” Two flight attendants were also acquitted for not reporting a crime.
Ghosn, who was arrested in Tokyo on charges of financial misconduct in 2018, skipped bail while awaiting trial. He flew from Osaka to Istanbul on a private plane and was then transferred to another plane to Beirut, where he arrived on December 30, 2019. He is believed to have hidden in a large box.
The convicted pilots, Noyan Pasin and Bahri Kutlu Somek, had maintained their innocence throughout the trial. They, the other two pilots and the flight attendant all denied involvement in the plans to help Ghosn escape, insisting that they did not know he was on board their flight.
The airline’s official, Okan Kosemen, claimed that he became aware that Ghosn was on the plane to Istanbul only after it landed. He acknowledged that he had helped smuggle Ghosn to the other, Lebanese-bound planet, but claimed he was under threat and feared for his family’s safety.
The Turkish airline MNG Jet has admitted that two of its planes were used illegally in Ghosn’s flight, to fly him to Istanbul and then to Beirut. The company said its employee forged airline records so that Ghosn’s name did not appear.
Kosemen and the two pilots are expected to appeal their convictions.
Ghosn, who has French, Lebanese and Brazilian citizenship, led Japanese carmaker Nissan for two decades. The 66-year-old is wanted on charges of breach of trust for abusing the company’s assets for personal gain, and breach of securities laws when he does not fully disclose his compensation.
He has said he fled because he could not expect a fair trial in Japan. Lebanon has no extradition agreement with Japan.
In addition to his trial in Japan, the businessman faces legal challenges in France from his time at the helm of the Renault-Nissan alliance, including allegations of tax evasion, money laundering, fraud and misuse of the company’s assets.