New Clues Emerge in Carlos Ghosn’s Escape From Japan


TOKYO — New clues emerged on Friday on how Carlos Ghosn pulled off his escape from Japan, as a Turkish charter jet company said its planes were used illegally to pull off the plan, while the Japanese news media reported that surveillance camera footage showed the disgraced auto industry mogul leaving his Tokyo home on Sunday by himself.

Taken together, the disclosures paint a picture of a dash across Japan to a waiting plane that flew Mr. Ghosn across Asia to Lebanon. Still, most of the details of his getaway remain murky and unconfirmed. The authorities in Japan and Turkey still appear to be investigating how he did it.

Mr. Ghosn — who has maintained that he is innocent — was facing four charges of financial wrongdoing in Japan and was set to go on trial sometime this year. But he escaped instead, saying that he did not trust what he called the “rigged” Japanese justice system to give him a fair trial. He built and once ran the Nissan-Renault auto alliance, one of the world’s biggest car-making empires, but was arrested after arriving in Tokyo in November 2018.

In Turkey on Friday, MNG Jet, an aircraft charter company, said one of its employees had falsified records to remove Mr. Ghosn’s name from the official documentation for two flights. The company said the employee had confessed to acting alone, without management’s knowledge. MNG Jet did not disclose the employee’s name.

News outlets in Turkey reported this week that Mr. Ghosn left on a plane from Osaka, Japan, late Sunday aboard a business jet and landed at Istanbul Ataturk Airport. He then switched planes and flew to Beirut, the reports said.

The news accounts match the flight records of a Bombardier business aircraft operated by MNG Jet that took off from Osaka just after 11 p.m. local time and landed in Istanbul about 12 hours later, according to data from FlightAware, a flight tracking service.

MNG Jet said it had no indication the two flights were connected. It said that it filed its criminal complaint in Turkey on Wednesday and that it “hopes that the people who illegally used and/or facilitated the use of the services of the company will be duly prosecuted.”

The jet company has also helped ship gold out of Venezuela, helping the government there in its efforts to raise cash, according to Caracas Capital, an investment bank that has been tracking the gold shipments. The movement of MNG’s jets through Venezuela were confirmed by online flight trackers.

MNG is the “go-to company if you want to have something done,” said Russ Dallen, the managing partner at Caracas Capital.

It is not clear how Mr. Ghosn, who was under heavy surveillance in Tokyo, could have eluded the authorities and make his way to Osaka, which is roughly 300 miles west of Tokyo.

In Japan on Friday, news outlets reported that Mr. Ghosn walked out of his Tokyo home alone on Sunday but never came back. The news reports cited anonymous sources with knowledge of footage of the cameras surrounding his rented house in a central district of the city.

Prosecutors are investigating whether Mr. Ghosn, after leaving his home, met up with a group that helped his escape to Lebanon, according to the national broadcaster NHK and the economic daily Nikkei Shimbun.

The footage described in the news reports was from security cameras installed in front of the two-story house in an upscale neighborhood in the city center, the outlets reported, citing sources close to the investigation. Three surveillance cameras had been installed above the doorway of Mr. Ghosn’s house as part of a bail agreement that placed tight restrictions on his movements and ability to communicate with the outside world.

The mystery has fed into some colorful theories. At least one Lebanese news media outlet had reported that Mr. Ghosn was smuggled out of his home in a musical instrument box. Lebanese officials have said Mr. Ghosn — who is a citizen of Brazil, France and Lebanon — arrived legally with a French passport, even though he had agreed to surrender three of his passports to his lawyers as a condition of his bail.

The Japanese authorities have stayed conspicuously silent about the escape of the country’s most prominent criminal defendant. Prosecutors raided Mr. Ghosn’s Tokyo home on Thursday afternoon. Mr. Ghosn’s departure appeared to be timed for the eve of Japan’s weeklong New Year’s Day holiday, the country’s most important.

Still, signs are mounting that Japanese officials are responding. On Thursday, Albert Serhan, the Lebanese justice minister, said the country’s public prosecutor had received a red notice from Interpol related to Mr. Ghosn’s case, according to the state-run National News Agency. Such a notice is issued for individuals wanted for prosecution or to serve a sentence.

Interpol’s online list of public red notices did not show an entry for Mr. Ghosn as of early Friday.

Amie Tsang contributed reporting from London.


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