Feb. 24 (UPI) — A court in Istanbul found three Turkish nationals guilty Wednesday of helping former Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn escape from Japan to Turkey in 2019.
The judge issued suspended prison sentences of four years, two months and fines equivalent to $ 4,352 to pilots Noyan Pasin and Bahri Kutlu Somek and airline manager Okan Kosemen for smuggling Ghosn to Istanbul, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday.
Lawyers for the defendants said the men maintain their innocence and will appeal the convictions. They said they were unaware that Ghosn, who was hidden inside a large box, was on board the private jet when it departed from an Osaka airport.
“They kept blaming us pilots in the court for not suspecting anything,” Pasin said after the ruling, according the Journal. “But when even the customs officers and police in Japan did not suspect anything, how could we have suspected?”
Two other pilots and a flight attendant were acquitted, and charges were dropped against a second flight attendant.
Ghosn was first arrested in November 2018 on charges of financial crimes, including diverting corporate funds to his private bank accounts. He has denied the charges. He escaped from Japan on a private jet by hiding inside a large box used to transport concert equipment.
In a report released in November, a United Nations panel called his arrest and detainment for 100 days in a Japanese cell “hostage justice.”
Ghosn had been living in a court-monitored house awaiting trial when he fled from Japan in December 2019. He currently is in Lebanon, where he is protected from extradition by his citizenship, Bloomberg reported.
Earlier this month, the U.S. Supreme Court denied a request by two American men to block their extradition to Japan, The New York Times reported. Michael Taylor and his son, Peter Maxwell Taylor, are accused of helping Ghosn escape Japan.