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Nissan's Ghosn crisis

Ghosn rode in train, car and box to stage escape

French minister suggests former chairman should face justice

Former Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn took a Shinkansen bullet train from Tokyo to Osaka as part of his escape plan. (Nikkei montage)

TOKYO/PARIS -- In new details that have emerged from security camera footage, former Nissan Motor Chairman Carlos Ghosn left his home in Tokyo on Dec. 29, rendezvoused with two men seen as collaborators, and traveled to Osaka by shinkansen bullet train before flying out of Japan later that day from Kansai International Airport.

The Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office and the Metropolitan Police Department have been piecing together security camera footage of the areas the former auto executive passed, in a bid to follow his exact movements.

According to people familiar with the matter, Ghosn left his house in Tokyo's Minato Ward, where he was staying as part of his bail conditions, at 2:30 p.m. He was alone.

Then he met up with two non-Japanese men at a hotel in the same ward.

At a little after 3:30 p.m., the three men boarded the Tokaido Shinkansen at Shinagawa Station in Tokyo. They arrived at Shin-Osaka Station at around 7:30 p.m. and changed over to a car.

Carlos Ghosn seen leaving the Tokyo Detention House in disguise last March. The former auto executive traveled to Osaka on a bullet train in broad daylight on Dec. 29. (Photo by Shinya Sawai)

By around 8 p.m. they had checked into a hotel near Kansai Airport.

When the two collaborators left the hotel shortly before 10 p.m., carrying a large box and a case for musical instruments, Ghosn is not seen with them. The two men headed to Kansai Airport and boarded a private jet, which took off at 11:10 p.m.

Ghosn is thought to have boarded the jet hiding in the box. The entourage's luggage was not X-rayed at Kansai Airport, sources have told Nikkei.

Japanese aviation law states that airlines have the responsibility to carry out security inspections of luggage to keep harmful objects off the aircraft. Airlines often outsource the checks to security companies. Tokyo prosecutors are investigating what happened at Kansai Airport.

The private jet reportedly used for the flight out, built by Canada's Bombardier, lists a "luggage compartment safely accessible throughout the flight" as a selling point.

The company's website talks about a design that enables free movement between the passenger cabin and the luggage compartment so that "personal items are always within reach."

The entourage flew to Turkey and arrived in Lebanon on Dec. 30.

The two men that helped the former chairman are currently not in Japan, sources say.

The Wall Street Journal has published a photo of the large black box that Ghosn is thought to have used in the escape. The container had holes drilled into the bottom to ensure Ghosn could breathe, the Journal reported. A second box contained a musical instrument.

Dozens of people spanning multiple countries were involved in the preparation, including a detailed survey of airports across Japan, after which they found the loophole in security at Kansai Airport.

Ghosn would have had to pass this gate at Kansai International Airport for private jet passengers to board the plane to Turkey.    © Kyodo

While Ghosn appears to be out of Japan's reach for now, potential legal trouble is brewing in other quarters.

French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire suggested to local media this week that Ghosn will be subject to French investigations.

"When one is on trial, one cannot escape justice," Le Maire said. Ghosn is suspected of using 11 million euros ($12.3 million) for his personal benefit from the Netherlands-based joint venture that ran the alliance between Nissan and French automaker Renault, and French authorities have reportedly shed light on the suspicious spending.

Investigators have also received information from Renault on two other allegations, related to suspect payments to an Omani auto dealer and Ghosn's purported use of Renault money to finance a party at Versailles. Ghosn's French home was searched last year in connection with the latter case.

And in Lebanon, a group of lawyers filed a complaint arguing that Ghosn should be prosecuted for his past visits to Israel, a sworn enemy of Beirut. If tried and found guilty, he could face a prison sentence.

Lebanese authorities are expected to question Ghosn about his escape from Japan as soon as Tuesday and Wednesday, in light of the "red notice" issued by Interpol asking for his arrest. Ghosn, however, is unlikely to be detained.

Ghosn, meanwhile, spoke with Maria Bartiromo of Fox Business over the weekend, where he said he has "actual evidence" and documents that prove he was subject to a planned coup to oust him from the top Nissan job, the U.S. news channel reported Monday.

Ghosn plans to name names, including Japanese government officials, which he believes were behind his 2018 arrest over financial misconduct allegations, according to the conversation with Bartiromo. Ghosn believes "they wanted to take him out" because he was going to merge Nissan and Renault.

Yoshihide Suga, Japan's chief cabinet secretary, called the escape "extremely regrettable as a government" and said it is crucial to find out exactly how the former chairman left the country. "It is important to take measures so that these things do not happen," he said.

The government will use all diplomatic means at its disposal to secure Ghosn's extradition, Suga said.

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