Reading yesterday about the escape of former Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn from house arrest in Japan yesterday in the Wall Street Journal, I wondered how he had done it. Held on $14 million bond and awaiting trial in Tokyo, Ghosn turned up in Lebanon. The best the Journal could do at the time was this: “a person familiar with the matter said he arrived in Lebanon via Turkey.”
Well, thanks, but even I could see they had skipped a few steps. You knew there had to be a little more to the story. Today’s New York Post adds this:
Nissan’s former CEO fled house arrest in Japan in a wild Hollywood-worthy plot — allegedly using a team of mercenaries posing as musicians to smuggle him out of the country in an instrument case, reports said.
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In a bizarre scheme allegedly orchestrated by his wife in the US, a group of ex-special forces soldiers posing as musicians specializing in a Gregorian band and toting music equipment strolled past Japanese security guards and entered the pad, according to the Lebanese news channel MTV.
Ghosn, who stands at just under 5-foot-6, climbed into “one of the boxes intended for the transfer of musical instruments,’’ the news station said — possibly a roughly 6-foot-tall double-base case.
He was then carted out in the case when the group left, after a “logical time for a concert had passed,” MTV said.
Japanese authorities had the door to his home under 24-hour video surveillance — but, per an April court agreement, Ghosn’s camp didn’t have to turn over each month’s recordings until the 15th of the following month, The Wall Street Journal reported.
Ghosn is believed to have been spirited out of the country on a chartered Bombardier jet from Kansai International Airport in Osaka — a six-hour drive from Toyko — around 11:10 p.m. Sunday, the Journal said.
The plane landed at Ataturk Airport in Istanbul early Monday, reports said. Ghosn then boarded a smaller plane belonging to the Turkish company MNG Jet Havacilik AS that departed about 30 minutes later for Rafic Hariri Airport in Beirut, Lebanon.
Japanese authorities apparently had no idea that their most high-profile detainee had fled until hours later — and only then, from an MTV reporter.
The station worker approached Matahiro Yamaguchi, the Japanese ambassador to Lebanon, at a party in Beirut around 6 p.m. Monday and asked about Ghosn’s fleeing, The Guardian reported.
The stunned ambassador said his administration knew nothing about it — and spent the next few minutes furiously texting before abruptly leaving the event.
This may serve as comic relief:
Ghosn’s scheme was blasted by the disgraced executive’s own lawyer, Junichiro Hironaka, who claimed that he was kept in the dark about his client’s illegal plot.
“His act is unforgivable and a betrayal of Japan’s justice system,’’ acknowledged Hironaka, nicknamed “The Razor’’ because of his sharp legal wit, per The Guardian.
Still, the lawyer, who said he last saw Ghosn on Christmas Day, added, “Maybe he thought he won’t get a fair trial.
“I can’t blame him for thinking that way,” Hironaka said, repeating Ghosn’s claim of innocence on the charges against him, which carry a maximum 15 years behind bars.
Some mysteries abide:
Lebanon authorities claimed Ghosn entered the country legally via the use of a French passport — although it’s unclear how.
Lawyer Hironaka said he still has Ghosn’s three passports, for Lebanon, France and Brazil, that his client had to turn over as a condition of bail.
“It would have been difficult for him to do this without the assistance of some large organization,” Hironaka told reporters.
I think I can add this about a large organization based in Lebanon. Nothing happens in Lebanon without the approval of Hezbollah.
Today’s Journal has more here, without the humorous details scarfed up by the Post. Neither the Post nor the Journal posits the obvious Hezbollah angle.