Carlos Ghosn slipped out of Japan 'in a musical instrument case'

More details emerge of how the former Renault-Nissan boss managed his dramatic movie-style escape to Lebanon while awaiting trial

02 January 2020 - 08:56 By Reuters and Motoring Staff
Former Nissan chariman Carlos Ghosn, right, leaves the Tokyo Detention House in Japan on April 25 2019.
Former Nissan chariman Carlos Ghosn, right, leaves the Tokyo Detention House in Japan on April 25 2019.
Image: Reuters

Japanese authorities allowed ousted Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn to carry a spare French passport in a locked case while out on bail, public broadcaster NHK said on Thursday, shedding some light on how he managed a dramatic escape to Lebanon.

In a case that is becoming ever more like a Hollywood thriller, speculation also emerged in the Lebanese media that Ghosn was wheeled out of his Tokyo property in a box used to carry "a large musical instrument", such as a double bass or drum.

The escape was said to be masterminded by his wife Carole with the help of a Gregorian music band and a team of ex-special forces officers.

The escape began when the musicians arrived at Ghosn’s Tokyo residence where he had been living under strict bail conditions that included 24-hour camera surveillance, according to the Lebanese TV news channel MTV.

A Gregorian music band was  seen entering his apartment on Sunday, apparently to set up ahead of a New Year’s Eve performance, according to the Daily Mail.

Prosecutors on Thursday raided the Tokyo residence of the former Nissan Motor chairman, NHK said.

Ghosn, one of the world's best-known executives, has become Japan's most famous fugitive after he revealed on Tuesday that he had fled to Lebanon to escape what he called a “rigged” justice system.

The businessman, who holds French, Lebanese and Brazilian citizenship, was smuggled out of Tokyo by a private security company days ago, the culmination of a plan that was crafted over three months, Reuters has reported.

Ghosn was first arrested in Tokyo in November 2018 and faces four charges, which he denies, including hiding income and enriching himself through payments to car dealerships in the Middle East. He enjoyed an outpouring of support from Lebanon after his arrest.

Lebanon received an Interpol arrest warrant on Thursday for Ghosn, while Turkey launched an investigation into his daring escape from Japan.

Lebanon has no extradition treaty with Japan, meaning it is unlikely Ghosn will be forced to return.

Japanese authorities have not officially commented on Ghosn's disappearance. Government offices are shut this week for the New Year holiday.

Officials in Lebanon said Ghosn entered legally on a French passport. But one of Ghosn's Japanese lawyers has said the lawyers were still in possession of all three of his passports, under the terms of his bail.

However, Ghosn had been issued a spare French passport, NHK said, citing unidentified sources, and carried it in the months before his departure.

NHK, citing the sources, said he had been “obliged” to carry the passport with him since May, without elaborating on the reason. Foreigners in Japan are required to carry government-issued identification cards or passports at all times.

NHK said his lawyers applied to have the terms of his bail changed so that he could carry a passport in a locked case.

The key to the locked case in which the spare passport was kept was held by his lawyers, NHK said.

No one was immediately available for comment at the office of his lawyer, Junichiro Hironaka, the French embassy in Tokyo or the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office.