Two pilots are among three jailed in Turkey today for helping former Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn flee Japan to Lebanon.
Ghosn's dramatic escape happened two years ago as he faced trial amid accusations of financial misconduct.
He is believed to have been smuggled inside a large, foam-covered music box. He was flown from Osaka to Istanbul on a private plane and then transferred onto another one for Beirut, where he arrived on December 30, 2019.
On Wednesday, Okan Kösemen, a senior official at MNG Jet, and two pilots were given jail terms of more than four years by an Istanbul court.
Four others were acquitted, two pilots on charges of “illegally smuggling a migrant" and two flight attendants over accusations they failed to report a crime.
The convicted pilots, Noyan Pasin and Bahri Kutlu Somek, had maintained their innocence throughout the trial. They denied involvement in plans to help Ghosn flee and insisted they did not know that he was aboard.
The airline official, Okan Kosemen, claimed he was made aware that Ghosn was on the plane to Istanbul only after it landed. He admitted helping smuggle Ghosn onto the second, Lebanon-bound plane but claimed he was threatened and feared for his family’s safety.
Turkish airline company MNG Jet has admitted that two of its planes were used illegally in Ghosn’s escape, flying him to Istanbul, and then to Beirut. The company said its employee falsified flight records so Ghosn’s name didn’t appear.
Kosemen and the two pilots are expected to appeal their convictions.
Ghosn, who has French, Lebanese and Brazilian citizenship, led Japanese automaker Nissan for two decades. The 66-year-old is wanted on charges of breach of trust in misusing company assets for personal gain, and violating securities laws in not fully disclosing his compensation.
He has said he fled because he could not expect a fair trial in Japan. Lebanon has no extradition treaty 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 company assets