Carlos Ghosn, the Brazilian millionaire who was head of Nissan and Renault, told in an interview the details of his escape from Japanese justice, which occurred in December 2019, and revealed the help network he had to travel to Lebanon. Ghosn had been arrested in November 2018, accused of embezzlement of funds from Nissan and of having received a salary greater than that notified to the company, accusations that he denies.
At the time of the arrest, Nissan and Renault had an alliance with Mitsubishi that had him as boss. The CEO had become a celebrity in the business world because of the cuts he made at Nissan, which allowed the automaker to survive.
The 67-year-old businessman has a Lebanese passport, for which he cannot be extradited. From Beirut, a year and a half after his surprising escape, he explained the details of the escape, which involved being hidden inside a double bass case. “The 30 minutes that I was inside the box on the plane, waiting for take off, were probably the longest wait I have ever experienced in my life,” he said about it in his dialogue with the BBC.
Ghosn defined “as if you were run over by a bus or something really traumatic happened to you” the feeling he had when he was arrested at the Tokyo airport in November 2018. “Suddenly I had to learn to live without a watch, without a computer, without a telephone, no news, no pen, nothing, “he said about what he had to live in the next thirteen months. He had just received the benefit of bail and was awaiting trial when he escaped. He preferred to flee rather than face a possible 15-year prison sentence.
The moment he decided to escape was when he was told that he would not be able to have contact with his wife. “The plan was that I couldn’t show my face, so I had to be hiding somewhere,” he said. “And the only way I could hide was to stay in a box or in a suitcase so that no one could see me, no one could recognize me and that way the plan could work.” From there to the double bass case there was a step. “It was the most logical, particularly since at this time there were many concerts in Japan.”
The point was to get from his house to the airport. It was all based on behaving as normal as possible. “It should be a normal day where I take a regular walk with normal clothes, normal attitude and suddenly, everything changes,” he said.
For that, he had to change his wardrobe: no longer circulate in suits but in jeans and sports shoes. “You can imagine that I had to go to places where I had never been, buy clothes that I had never bought,” he said about it. “All this to have the maximum chance of success without attracting attention at all.”
The businessman traveled by bullet train to the city of Osaka. There, a private jet was waiting for him to depart. Before, in a hotel, he got into the case “When you enter the box, you don’t think about the past, you don’t think about the future, you only think about the moment,” he said. “You are not afraid, you have no emotion except the enormous concentration on ‘this is your chance, you can’t miss it. If you lose it, you will pay for it with your life, with the life of a hostage in Japan, ‘”he added.
There, the Americans Michael Taylor and his son Peter entered the scene, posing as musicians. They took it from the hotel to the airport in the case. The Brazilian estimates that an hour and a half spent inside the case. “The 30 minutes that I was in the box on the plane, waiting for takeoff, was probably the longest wait I have ever experienced in my life,” he described that moment.
The plane made a stopover in Turkey. The next day he arrived in Lebanon, where the non-validity of the extradition agreement with Japan allows him to live there with peace of mind. The Taylors weren’t so lucky. After being identified, the United States handed them over to Japan, and they now face three years in prison for their help in the escape.
Another who can go to jail is Grg Kelly, Ghosn’s collaborator at Nissan. He is accused of having helped the Brazilian to alter the company’s accounts and is under house arrest in Tokyo, where he denies the charges. “I’ve been told that the end of (Greg Kelly’s) trial will probably be later this year. And then God knows what the results of this trial will be for, as I said, a false reason, “Ghosn said about it. “I feel sorry for all the people who are victims of the hostage justice system in Japan, all of them,” he added.