A court in Turkey yesterday convicted two former pilots and an executive formerly employed by private charter operator MNG Jet on charges of migrant smuggling for their part in the escape of indicted automotive executive Carlos Ghosn from Japan to Lebanon in late December 2019. Ghosn, who was formerly chairman of Nissan Motor Co. Ltd., hid in a Bombardier Global 6000 operated by MNG to fly from Tokyo to Istanbul, before switching to the company’s Bombardier Challenger 300 for a flight to Beirut.
The court found pilots Erem Yucel and Noyan Pasin guilty of the charges, along with Oken Koseman, who was reportedly an operations manager with Istanbul-based MNG. It acquitted two other pilots and a flight attendant, after charges had previously been dropped for a second flight attendant.
The three convicted men were charged in early January 2020 after MNG filed a criminal complaint against an unnamed employee who it alleged had falsified records for the two flights. MNG Jet did not respond to AIN's request for comment about the outcome of this case.
While the men were sentenced to four years and two months imprisonment, their attorneys indicated to news agency Reuters that they are not expected to serve more jail time after being released on bail in July 2020.
A lawyer representing Yucel said he intends to appeal the verdict on the grounds that he and his colleagues could not have been expected to know that Ghosn had been hidden in the aircraft, allegedly by two U.S. private security experts he hired to coordinate the escape. The defendants pointed out that customs and border control officials in both Japan and Turkey had failed to detain Ghosn, who was allegedly hidden in cases meant to carry audio equipment.
After the initial criminal complaint was filed last year, MNG said it was a victim of a “fraudulent scheme,” insisting that it had not been aware that Ghosn, or his representatives, had chartered the aircraft. In addition to private charter flights, the company offers aircraft management, maintenance, refurbishment, and sales services.
Ghosn had been charged with fraud in Japan, which does not have an extradition treaty with Lebanon. He has repeatedly refused to comment on the details of his escape.
Two U.S. citizens—Michael Taylor and his son Peter Maxwell Taylor—are now facing imminent extradition to Japan, where they face charges of aiding Ghosn's escape while he was out on bail. The men are being detained in Massachusetts, where they were arrested in May. On February 13, they lost a U.S. Supreme Court appeal against extradition and their lawyers are now reportedly asking Secretary of State Anthony Blinken to intervene in the case. If the Taylors do face trial in Japan, the case would likely shed more light on the role of MNG and its former employees in the incident.