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Ex-Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn escaped Japan 'in instrument case'

Oscar Williams-Grut
Senior City Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
Former Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn arrives at his residence in Tokyo on March 8, 2019. Photo: BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP via Getty Images

Former Nissan (7201.T) boss Carlos Ghosn masterminded an audacious escape from Japan hidden in a musical instrument case, according to local media reports in Lebanon.

News emerged late on Monday night that Ghosn had fled Japan, where he was facing charges of financial misconduct, and travelled to Lebanon.

Ghosn said in a brief media statement that he had “escaped injustice and political persecution,” according to Reuters.

The surprise move has shocked the world. Millionaire Ghosn was under strict house arrest in Tokyo and did not have his passports, leading to questions about how he was able to leave the country.

Lebanese TV news channel MTV on Tuesday reported alleged details of how Ghosn made his escape. He was apparently smuggled out of his house in a case meant for a musical instrument. A Gregorian band held a concert at Ghosn’s house in Tokyo and he was able to slip into an instrument case at the end of the recital. He was then taken to a nearby airport, MTV reported, as part of an operation carried out by ‘para-military’ forces.

Members of Lebanon's security forces stand at the parking gate of the house identified by court documents as belonging to former Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn in a wealthy neighbourhood of the Lebanese capital Beirut on 31 December 2019. Photo: Anwar Amro/AFP via Getty Images

MTV said Ghosn met with the president of Lebanon after arriving in Beirut and received official protection from the state. Pictures showed Lebanese security officials standing outside Ghosn’s house in Beirut on Tuesday.

65-year-old Ghosn was born in Brazil to Lebanese parents and spent his youth in Beirut. He holds Brazilian, Lebanese, and French passports.

Questions still remain as to how Ghosn was able to pass through airport customs. MTV said Ghosn entered Lebanon on a French passport, aboard a private plane that flew from Turkey.

However, Ghosn’s Japanese lawyer told reporters he still held all of Ghosn’s passports. He said he was “dumbfounded” by the news and had not been in contact with his client since his escape.

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Ghosn, the former head of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Motors alliance, was arrested in Tokyo in November 2018 on charges of falsifying financial information and breach of trust. Ghosn denies the charges.

Nissan sacked Ghosn as chairman around the time of his arrest. The car company said an internal investigation found he under-reported his salary and misused company funds. Ghosn, who is worth an estimated $120m, claims he is the victim of a “conspiracy” at Nissan.

Ghosn was detained for nearly four months after his arrest but was released on bail of 1 billion yen (£6.8m) in March. He was arrested in connection with fresh allegations and taken back into custody in April but was bailed again under house arrest later that month.

The Japanese lawyer for former auto tycoon Carlos Ghosn, Junichiro Hironaka, speaks to the media outside his office in Tokyo on 31 December 2019. Photo: Kazuhiro Nogi/AFP via Getty Images

In a statement sent to the media on Monday, Ghosn said he would “no longer be held hostage by a rigged Japanese justice system where guilt is presumed”, according to Reuters. He said he could “finally communicate freely with the media, and look forward to starting next week.”

Japan does not have an extradition treaty with Lebanon, meaning prosecutors will likely struggle to get Ghosn back to the country unless he travels of his own free will.