He was born in Brazil, has Lebanese ancestors, holds not one but two French passports ... and his escape from Japan is straight out of a Hollywood film. The cost of the entire operation exceeds the quarter-of-a-million mark.
Carlos Ghosn, former chairman and CEO of Nissan, has been in the spotlight for quite some time, but even more so recently after escaping house arrest in Japan, where he had been under trial for financial misconduct. He arrived in Beirut prior to the start of 2020 and did so using private jets, public transportation (bullet trains), and boxes with holes to keep the oxygen circulating.
Ghosn was first arrested in November 2018 on allegations of under-reporting his earnings and misusing company assets; he was granted bail in March 2019. But his freedom didn't last long as he was re-arrested in Tokyo in April over new allegations regarding misappropriating Nissan's funds. He was released on bail on condition that he remains in Japan with 24-hour camera surveillance as he awaited trial to defend himself against charges of financial misconduct. But he decided to escape because he could "no longer be held hostage by a rigged Japanese justice system where guilt is presumed, discrimination is rampant and basic human rights are denied."
The way he decided to escape was not spontaneous; it required lots of planning, money, no conscience, and excuse my French ... balls.
Flights totaling $350K
Following his escape, reports circulated detailing how Ghosn's runaway scheme actually unfolded. A source told CNBC that a firm listed in Dubai agreed to pay $350,000 to MNG Jet, a Turkish private jet company, for two flights: one from Dubai to Osaka, Japan and another from Osaka to Istanbul. MNG Jet only received half that amount, according to media reports.
The private jet, a Bombardier Global Express, was big enough to effectively get Ghosn from Japan to Turkey. There were no signs of linkages between Ghosn and the leasing of the aircraft prior to the businessman's escape.
MNG Jet has since denied having any knowledge that one of its jets would be used to help Ghosn escape bail. After all, the businessman's name did not appear on any of the documents involved in the leasing of the aircraft; the client listed was in the name of someone called Dr. Ross Allen, a name that may or may not have been an alias to facilitate the escape. The private jet company has also filed a criminal complaint against one of its employees for his alleged role in Ghosn's escape.
Two days after landing in Beirut, Ghosn claimed that he "alone arranged for my departure," according to CNBC.
Public transportation was used
Now you may be wondering how exactly he made it onto the private jet. Early media reports had claimed that the businessman had fled his residence in Tokyo by hiding in a large musical instrument case that was taken to a local airport in Japan, where he then hopped on a flight to Istanbul and then to Lebanon.
But those reports were actually false. The business tycoon simply walked out of his Tokyo residence as any normal person - who wasn't facing charges - would. CCTV footage revealed that Ghosn left his home on Dec. 29 around noon but never returned.
According to Japanese media, Ghosn met two U.S. citizens in a nearby hotel and then took a Shinkansen bullet train from Shinagawa station to the Japanese city of Osaka — a trip that normally takes around three hours. He then took a taxi to a hotel near Kansai airport where he is believed to have taken the private jet mentioned above to Istanbul, where he then switched planes and made it to Beirut.
Punched boxes for a breeze of oxygen
According to The Wall Street Journal, Ghosn boarded the flight from Osaka in a large audio equipment case. Unnamed sources in Turkey have said that holes had been "drilled into the bottom of the container to ensure the businessman could breathe," as reported by The Guardian.
What about luggage checks?
According to Japan's transport ministry, luggage checks are not mandatory for private jets.
"Operators of private jets decide if luggage checks are necessary or not while airline operators are obliged to conduct security checks under Japan’s aviation law," a ministry official told AFP.
"The security checks are carried out to prevent danger such as bombs, and to prevent hijacks," he added, explaining that such incidents are less probable to happen on private jets.
All with the help of a former U.S. Army Green Beret
Michael Taylor, a veteran of the U.S. Army's elite Special Forces (Green Berets) and a man who has worked undercover for the FBI, seems to be the mastermind behind Ghosn's grand escape. Taylor himself had pleaded guilty to two fraud charges and was sentenced to two years in prison ... and it wasn't his first time to plead guilty for a crime.
In 2012, he was charged in Utah "over a plot to obstruct a fraud investigation of whether the Afghan contract was awarded improperly." Fifteen years prior, he admitted to "two misdemeanor charges in Massachusetts related to a police report filed in a domestic case in which he'd been hired," according to LA Times.
So it's not so surprising that he would help Ghosn escape punishment for his crimes. Taylor's work had involved Lebanon, and Ghosn's ties to the country made it all the more tempting to use the tiny country as a fugitive destination.
On the morning of Dec. 29, Taylor and his accomplice George-Antoine Zayek, a Lebanese man, arrived at the private-jet terminal of Kansai International Airport using a private jet. That same evening, the very same private jet took off from Kansai to Istanbul. According to LA Times, there were two large black cases on board, boxes that were ultimately used to pack up Ghosn as cargo and get him to Lebanon where he entered legally using a spare French passport.