How Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn fled Japan aboard a private jet


  • Several wild theories and reports cropped up on Tuesday to explain how Carlos Ghosn, Nissan’s former CEO, somehow escaped Japan, where he was facing trial, and fled to Lebanon.
  • Ghosn’s escape was particularly mysterious because he was forbidden from traveling internationally and his three passports were confiscated as part of a $13 million bail arrangement.
  • Unverified reports have suggested that Ghosn smuggled himself out in a musical instrument case, or in a wooden crate, or that he perhaps used a fake or forged identity.
  • Officials in Japan and Lebanon have not confirmed exactly what happened.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Speculation abounded on Tuesday over the escape of Nissan’s former CEO Carlos Ghosn — a recognizable figure and international fugitive — from his highly surveilled home in Japan to a mysterious flight to Lebanon.

Ghosn, who was set to stand trial in Tokyo on charges of financial misconduct, said in a statement that he fled so he would “no longer be held hostage by a rigged Japanese justice system where guilt is presumed, discrimination is rampant, and basic human rights are denied.”

But how he managed to flee the country while under tight restrictions is anyone’s guess. He was forbidden from traveling internationally, and his three passports were confiscated as part of a $13 million bail arrangement.

Citing unnamed sources, The Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday that the exfiltration “followed weeks of planning by associates,” including “accomplices in Japan.” His wife, Carole Ghosn, was also said to be involved, The Journal said, citing sources familiar with the planning.

The Journal did not provide specifics on how he managed to leave Japan, and officials in Japan and Lebanon have not confirmed exactly what happened.

However, that hasn’t stopped a variety of bizarre — and in many cases unconfirmed — theories from springing up online and in media outlets.

For instance, one unverified account from the Lebanese TV station MTV said Ghosn fled the country in a bass case after a Christmas band visited his home.

Carlos Ghosn

The former Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn was facing trial on charges of financial misconduct.
Carlos Ghosn

Another Lebanese website, El Nashra, reported that Ghosn concealed himself in a wooden crate and was smuggled out of the country by a Western security company.

Citing anonymous sources, the French newspaper Le Monde said his wife helped arranged the escape, leaning on her brothers’ contacts in Turkey.

Other reports have indicated that Ghosn used a fake passport and identity. The New York Times noted that such a ruse wouldn’t be uncommon for Ghosn — he once disguised himself as a construction worker so he could leave a detention center without reporters noticing.

Sources told NHK, Japan’s national broadcaster, that the country’s immigration agency had no record of Ghosn leaving Japan.

Carlos Ghosn in Beirut, Lebanon house

The house believed to be Ghosn’s in Lebanon.
REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir

Citing a source in Lebanon’s government, Agence France-Presse reported that Ghosn entered the country with a French passport and his Lebanese identity card. It’s unclear whether that passport was authentic, though, as Ghosn’s Japanese lawyers confirmed they had all his passports, including his French one.

Reuters reported the same, adding that he took a private jet from Istanbul to Beirut on Monday.

The Lebanese General Security Directorate said in a statement that it wouldn’t prosecute him for coming to the country. Lebanon doesn’t have an extradition treaty with Japan, so he most likely won’t be forced to go back to face trial.

Ghosn’s parents were born in Lebanon, and he grew up in Beirut, where he still has a house. Reuters reported that a neighbor left a note on Tuesday that said “Carlos, welcome home!” Private security guards and police officers stood guard outside.

A family friend told Agence France-Presse: “He is in Lebanon in his house with his wife. He is very happy. He is free.”

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