It sounds like the plot of a Hollywood thriller – an on-the-run business executive with powerful political ties. A daring escape with private military contractors. An Interpol arrest notice. A government vowing justice.
But this is a motoring story, the tale of former Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance boss Carlos Ghosn who fled Japan last week and is now secure inside his Beirut mansion. Now the Japanese government has lashed out at Ghosn and his escape saying he left Japan “illegally by unjust methods”, reportedly smuggled out of his Japanese home inside a music case with the help of private military contractors.
It’s believed he flew via private jet from Osaka to Istanbul, where he got another jet to take him to Beirut. The Turkish Government has arrested seven people involved with his escape, while the Turkish private aviation business claims it was duped by an employee.
Japan’s Justice Minister, Masako Mori, said her government had requested international police agency Interpol issue a red notice for Ghosn, which notifies local law enforcement agencies that he is a fugitive. Importantly, though, a red notice is not an arrest warrant, merely a notification, and Ghosn seemingly has the support of the Lebansese government, one of three countries he holds citizenship with. The others are Brazil and France, and the French Government has joined with the Lebanese in vowing not to deport a citizen to Japan.
Ghosn was arrested in November 2018 on a range of changes including under-reporting his salary and using Nissan corporate money to buy houses for his personal use. He was held in Japanese prison for 108 days, much of that time without access to his lawyers or family.
Ghosn has accused the Japanese justice system of being “rigged” amid insider reports that the Japanese company pursued these criminal charges against him in a bid to oust the foreigner from the top job at Nissan. In a video released last April between stints in custody, Ghosn said the case against him was “backstabbing” by “selfish” Nissan executives who didn’t like the way he ran the company. Ghosn had publicly looked for more partners for the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance in a bid to make it the largest car company on the planet. It’s worth noting that Renault conducted its own inquiry into Ghosn’s behaviour and opted not to take any action against him.
Ghosn has said he will make another public statement from Lebanon this week.