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The man who helped Carlos Ghosn flee Japan bowed in apology and told a Tokyo courtroom that Mr. Ghosn decided at the last minute to turn a rehearsal into an actual escape.

Michael Taylor, a 60-year-old former Green Beret, was giving his first public account of the escape alongside his son and fellow defendant, Peter Taylor, 28. Both have pleaded guilty to Japanese charges of aiding the flight of a criminal.

They used their appearances Tuesday in court to issue effusive expressions of regret for helping Mr. Ghosn, the former head of Nissan Motor Co. and Renault SA.

“I deeply regret my actions and sincerely apologize for causing difficulties for the judicial process and for the Japanese people. I’m sorry," Michael Taylor told the court as he wiped away tears. He then bowed deeply to the judges and then turned and bowed to the prosecutors.

“After more than 400 days in jail, I have had a lot of time to reflect. I take full responsibility and deeply apologize," the younger Mr. Taylor said before bowing.

Michael Taylor helped hide Mr. Ghosn in a large music-equipment box and smuggled the box aboard a private jet that flew to Turkey from Osaka, Japan, in late December 2019. Mr. Ghosn took another plane to Lebanon, where he lives now. Lebanon has no extradition treaty with Japan.

The elder Mr. Taylor said he was inspired to help Mr. Ghosn after both Mr. Ghosn and his wife, Carole, said he was suffering psychological torture in a Japanese jail. Mr. Taylor told the court he now feels misled by the Ghosns. They declined to comment through a spokeswoman.

In their testimony, both Taylors tried to play down their culpability.

Michael Taylor said he was assured by Mr. and Mrs. Ghosn that helping someone jump bail wasn’t a crime in Japan. At the time of the escape, Mr. Ghosn was living in a Tokyo house after being freed on bail. Mr. Taylor said he never would have helped Mr. Ghosn escape if he knew it was a crime.

Mr. Taylor said that when he arrived in Osaka, Japan, on the morning of Dec. 29, 2019, his purpose was to practice a potential escape plan. He said his team was still weighing whether to spirit Mr. Ghosn out of Japan aboard a boat or plane, and the trip was to assess the plane option.

Both the private jet and the box were Mr. Ghosn’s idea, Mr. Taylor said, and the plan was to leave the box with Mr. Ghosn in Japan after the rehearsal.

Then the former car titan veered at the last second, Mr. Taylor said.

Mr. Taylor and another member of the escape team, George Zayek, escorted Mr. Ghosn to Osaka from Tokyo. On the evening of Dec. 29, they went to a hotel near the Osaka international airport.

“When we returned to Osaka, and Mr. Ghosn saw the box, Mr. Ghosn decided that he would go that night," Mr. Taylor told the court.

What Mr. Taylor had seen as a dry run became the real thing, he said. Airport personnel didn’t check the box, and Mr. Ghosn got away.

The younger Mr. Taylor, who didn’t travel to Osaka with the group, said he only found out about the escape from press reports.

Peter Taylor’s company received $862,000 from Mr. Ghosn earlier in 2019 and much of that money was used to pay for the escape, according to prosecutors and Peter Taylor’s testimony.

The younger Mr. Taylor said some of the money also went to provide counter-surveillance services for Mr. Ghosn, who was concerned he was being followed by Nissan and prosecutors. The rest of the money was for reputation management services, including sending fake internet traffic to stories deemed friendly to Mr. Ghosn in order to push them higher on Google, Peter Taylor said.

The younger Mr. Taylor said he was excited to help the famous businessman because he thought it might lead to more work for his company.

Prosecutors sought to poke holes in the Taylors’ testimony and portrayed the elder Mr. Taylor as a serial offender who ran a business secreting people out of countries. Mr. Taylor has helped rescue children on behalf of a parent in international custody disputes. Mr. Taylor said he didn’t think he broke the law in those cases.

The Taylors have been in separate cells since their extradition to Japan in March. They took moments to communicate briefly with each other during breaks in the trial. After Michael Taylor finished his testimony he walked by Peter Taylor and said: “Hey. I love you."

The prosecution and defense will make final arguments in early July. A verdict and sentence are expected later this year.

This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text

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