How did he do it? A week after Carlos Ghosn’s sensational getaway from Tokyo turned him into one of the most sought-after international fugitives on the planet, this will still be the question on Japanese officials’ lips. Did the former Nissan boss really jump bail in a double bass case?
Unfortunately for filmmakers hoping to serialise the incident, it appears not to be true; his wife, Carole, has called that version of events “fiction”. Still, it did the rounds last week, until footage emerged of Ghosn simply strolling out of his Tokyo residence, casual as you like. So much for the 24-hour Japanese surveillance that infringed his human rights (according to Ghosn’s lawyers).
But Hollywood will no doubt be undeterred. Ghosn had been under house arrest for months, awaiting trial on charges of financial wrongdoing. That came after a 108-day stint in a cell last year. It was a precipitous fall from grace for the superstar businessman credited with saving Nissan in the early 2000s. He was staring down the barrel of serious jail time.
As a result, Ghosn’s flight from what he has since called a “rigged” Japanese justice system to his childhood home of Lebanon has evoked outrage and marvel in equal measure. His upcoming tell-all press conference on Wednesday promises to be the first true water-cooler moment of the decade in global business – especially given his video message last year in which he claimed he had been the victim of “a plot, conspiracy and back-stabbing” within Nissan. He certainly has a flair for drama.
Meanwhile, the plot thickens: a Turkish private jet operator has blamed an employee for falsifying records to allow Ghosn to use two of its planes illegally as part of his plan to slip away to Beirut via Istanbul. And according to the Wall Street Journal, there may be a grain of truth in the Houdini-like account of his escape – albeit excluding the double bass case. The newspaper reported on Friday that the diminutive Ghosn slipped out of Japan in a large black case typically used to carry audio gear, accompanied by a pair of men with names matching those of American security contractors.
As for Japan, it remains unclear what authorities will do from here. The government finally broke its silence early on Sunday, with justice minister Masaki Mori assuring that border police would – somewhat belatedly – “tighten” immigration controls. She added that Ghosn’s departure was both “apparently illegal” and regrettable. But Japan does not have an extradition treaty with Lebanon, and the country’s justice minister Albert Serhan said Ghosn, who also holds Lebanese nationality, entered the country legally on a French passport.
Instead, Interpol has taken action, sending an arrest warrant to Lebanese authorities. In the past, where Lebanon has received the so-called red notice for its citizens living in the country, the suspects have not been arrested – but they have had their passports confiscated and been placed under bail restrictions. Ghosn, whose star once shone so brightly in the country that his face appeared on Lebanese stamps, will be hoping for a different story altogether.