A Turkish court has convicted two pilots and an official from a private airline over their involvement in former Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn’s dramatic escape out of Japan in 2019.
The court in Istanbul sentenced each of them to four years and two months in prison on Wednesday.
It acquitted two other pilots of the charge of “illegally smuggling a migrant”. Two flight attendants were also acquitted of failing to report a crime.
Ghosn, who was arrested in Tokyo on financial misconduct allegations in 2018, skipped bail while awaiting trial.
He was flown from Osaka to Istanbul on a private plane and then transferred onto another plane to Beirut, where he arrived on December 30, 2019. He is believed to have hidden inside a large box.
The convicted pilots, Noyan Pasin and Bahri Kutlu Somek, had maintained their innocence throughout the trial.
They, the other two pilots and the flight attendants all denied involvement in plans to help Ghosn flee and insisted they did not know that he was on board their flights.
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 company MNG Jet admitted that two of its planes were used illegally in Ghosn’s escape. The company said its employee falsified flight records so Ghosn’s name did not 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 20 years.
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.