Former auto executive says family wasn't involved in his escape,
as investigations begin
By Sean McLain and Miho Inada in Tokyo and David Gauthier-Villars in Istanbul
This article is being republished as part of our daily
reproduction of WSJ.com articles that also appeared in the U.S.
print edition of The Wall Street Journal (January 3, 2020).
Japanese and Turkish authorities are probing the circumstances
of Carlos Ghosn's flight from bail in Tokyo to Lebanon via Turkey,
while the former auto executive said Thursday that he alone
arranged for his escape.
Mr. Ghosn also said his family played no part in his fleeing
Japan, where he faced charges for financial crimes.
"I alone arranged for my departure. My family had no role
whatsoever," the former chief of Renault SA and Nissan Motor Co.
said in a statement late Thursday. The Wall Street Journal and
other media had reported associates of Mr. Ghosn had considered a
plan to get him out of Japan for months, and that his wife, Carole
Ghosn, had played a role. The Journal cited people familiar with
Japanese prosecutors went through the house where Mr. Ghosn had
been living in Tokyo before fleeing the country. The visit, though,
was one of the few outward signs that officials there were trying
to figure out how he got away.
As of Thursday, no Japanese government official responsible for
the Ghosn case had issued any public statement on the matter.
Prosecutors didn't answer the phone, a Foreign Ministry official
declined to comment and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was on
Turkish prosecutors, meanwhile, have launched an investigation
into how Mr. Ghosn made a stopover at Istanbul's Atatürk Airport
unbeknown to local authorities, according to Turkish officials.
They said prosecutors have detained seven people in connection with
the investigation: four pilots, an airline manager and two ground
The investigations come as authorities in Lebanon received an
Interpol arrest notice for the former Nissan Motor chairman,
according to a Justice Ministry statement posted on the official
Lebanese state news agency.
An Interpol Red Notice isn't an international arrest warrant,
and member countries aren't obliged to arrest an individual under
notice. But the alert could impede Mr. Ghosn's ability to travel
outside Lebanon, especially to a country that has an extradition
agreement with Japan. Lebanon has no extradition treaty with Japan.
Mr. Ghosn has French, Brazilian and Lebanese nationality.
In a high-price area in Tokyo, authorities spent several hours
in the three-story house where Mr. Ghosn had been staying before
his escape. When the investigators emerged they declined to say
what they were looking for.
One reason for Tokyo's official silence is Mr. Ghosn's timing.
The first word of his escape came on the morning of Dec. 31, just
as Japan was entering its most important holiday, the New Year's
break. The nation mostly shuts down for the first few days of the
year, with people traveling to visit family and enjoy special New
It appeared authorities weren't in a hurry to interrupt their
vacations for the sake of Ghosn postmortems. A spokesman for Kansai
International Airport near Osaka said on Thursday that prosecutors
and police hadn't contacted the airport to seek its cooperation,
although he said he didn't know whether employees had been
contacted individually. The Journal and some Japanese media
reported that a long-range Bombardier business jet left the Kansai
airport on Sunday night and landed in Turkey Monday morning --
matching what is known of Mr. Ghosn's movements en route to
The airport itself hasn't checked with employees who were on
duty on Sunday because it hasn't been confirmed that Mr. Ghosn was
on the plane headed for Turkey, said spokesman Kenji Takanishi. He
said passengers and crew of private jets must go through
immigration and customs inspections. "We are all puzzled about how
he could go through the checks," Mr. Takanishi said.
Mr. Ghosn's abrupt departure carries some advantages for Japan.
For example, a lengthy trial would have distracted Nissan
management and dredged up past disputes involving alliance partner
Renault at a time when the Japanese car maker is trying to move on
and recover from a severe business downturn.
Also, although Japanese prosecutors enjoy a conviction rate of
more than 99%, this case was looking harder than most to win. Mr.
Ghosn denied all wrongdoing, and in Junichiro Hironaka he had found
one of the country's most tenacious and successful defense lawyers.
Many of the key witnesses were overseas -- an unusual situation for
Japanese prosecutors -- and at least one witness, in Oman, told
prosecutors he didn't know of any wrongdoing by Mr. Ghosn,
according to people familiar with the matter.
Mr. Ghosn's escape in violation of his bail terms -- he is
forfeiting nearly $14 million in bail money -- allows prosecutors
to say he must have been guilty, without having to prove it in
"The defendant has of his own volition thrown away the
opportunity to prove his innocence and restore his honor," said the
conservative Yomiuri newspaper in a commentary. For his part, Mr.
Ghosn said he wasn't escaping justice but rather an unjust and
Mr. Hironaka expressed understanding for his client's impatience
to be free. He said Mr. Ghosn was frustrated at prosecutors'
tactics in the case, such as refusing to share potentially
exculpatory Nissan emails.
Even Japanese media wasn't necessarily giving coverage of his
escape priority. The Asahi newspaper, one of the top national
dailies, led its Jan. 1 edition with a report on another legal
case, involving a lawmaker accused of taking bribes from a would-be
casino operator, relegating the Ghosn case to No. 2 status. Mr.
Ghosn also got second billing in the Nikkei business daily, which
made its top story an analysis of capitalism's troubles.
Among the seven people detained in Turkey, according to Turkish
officials, is a manager of MNG Jet Havacilik AS, a business-jet
company that is suspected of having transported Mr. Ghosn from
Japan to Lebanon via Istanbul.
Calls to MNG Jet weren't answered on Thursday. An official at
MNG Jet's parent company, MNG Sirketler Grubu Holding AS, declined
Turkish government officials have said they found no trace in
official records of Mr. Ghosn making a recent stopover in Turkey.
It couldn't be determined whether Mr. Ghosn traveled under an alias
or eluded customs clearance when he transited through Istanbul.
Write to Sean McLain at email@example.com, Miho Inada at
firstname.lastname@example.org and David Gauthier-Villars at
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
January 03, 2020 02:47 ET (07:47 GMT)
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