Pilots, Airline Official Face 12 Years Jail for Ghosn Flight

Prosecutors in Turkey sought the maximum possible prison term.

A security official checks people's IDs before the third hearing in the trial of Carlos Ghosn, Istanbul, Jan. 20, 2021.
A security official checks people's IDs before the third hearing in the trial of Carlos Ghosn, Istanbul, Jan. 20, 2021.
AP Photo/Mehmet Guzel

ISTANBUL (AP) — Turkish prosecutors on Wednesday sought the maximum possible 12 years in prison each for a Turkish private airline official and two pilots accused of smuggling the former Nissan Motor Co. chairman out of Japan, Turkey’s state news agency reported.

In the third hearing in the trial of seven people over Carlos Ghosn’s dramatic escape in 2019, prosecutors also requested that the court acquits two other pilots of the charge of “illegally smuggling a migrant,” Anadolu Agency said. They recommended instead that the two — who flew him from Istanbul to Beirut — be tried on charges of failing to report a crime.

Delivering their final opinion on the case, the prosecutors also demanded that charges against two flight attendants be dropped. The trial was adjourned until Feb. 24, when the court in Istanbul could deliver verdicts.

Ghosn, 66, who was arrested over financial misconduct allegations in Tokyo in 2018, skipped bail while awaiting trial there. He was flown by pilots Noyan Pasin and Bahri Kutlu Somek from Osaka to Istanbul on a private plane and then transferred onto another plane for Beirut, where he arrived Dec. 30, 2019. He is believed to have been smuggled inside a large, foam-covered music box.

All four pilots and two flight attendants have denied involvement in the plans to help Ghosn flee, insisting that they did not know that he was aboard the flights.

During the opening hearing, 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, Beirut-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 had admitted to falsifying flight records so that Ghosn’s name didn’t appear on them.

Ghosn, who has French, Lebanese and Brazilian citizenship, led Japanese automaker Nissan for two decades. He 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 that 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 is facing a number of legal challenges in France, including tax evasion and alleged money laundering, fraud and misuse of company assets while at the helm of the Renault-Nissan alliance.

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