Fallen auto titan Carlos Ghosn took public transport — a bullet train — from Tokyo to Osaka before boarding a private jet to escape to Lebanon, broadcaster NTV reported, raising more uncomfortable questions for Japan about how one of the world’s best-known executives managed to pull off a stunning escape.
Japan on Monday vowed to strengthen its border checks and take a closer look at bail practices to prevent such lapses. On the first working day since the country’s traditional year-end holidays, its Justice Minister Masako Mori said the matter is under investigation and steps are already being taken, without giving any details on how Ghosn managed to flee.
Authorities are under immense pressure to find out how one of the country’s most high-profile suspects in recent years managed to escape despite being under round-the-clock surveillance as he awaited trial for financial crimes, which he has denied. The former head of carmakers Nissan Motor and Renault had leveraged his fame since his November 2018 arrest to draw unwanted attention to Japan’s legal system, criticising what he described as vast freedoms enjoyed by prosecutors to force bogus confessions out of suspects.
Trains, Planes and Audacity: Ghosn’s 5,400 Mile Escape to Beirut
Ghosn took a bullet train around 4:30 p.m. local time on Dec. 29 from Tokyo’s Shinagawa station, broadcaster NTV reported, citing sources involved in the investigation. He then took a taxi from Shin-Osaka station and stayed at a hotel near Kansai Airport, it said. A spokesman for Central Japan Railway Co., a bullet train operator connecting Tokyo and Osaka, said he couldn’t confirm the report.
Ghosn then flew flew via Istanbul to Beirut, the capital of Lebanon, which doesn’t have an extradition agreement with Japan. A security camera captured Ghosn leaving his Tokyo residence alone around noon on the day of his escape, NHK reported last week, citing people involved in the investigation. Inspectors at Kansai Airport didn’t conduct X-ray checks on large cases that were brought aboard the jet in which Ghosn is thought to have made his getaway, according to reports.
Ghosn had been free on bail as he awaited a trial that was scheduled to start this year. He has said the charges were part of a conspiracy to prevent further integration between Renault and Nissan.
Ghosn, who holds Lebanese citizenship, is due to hold a press conference on Wednesday when he is expected to provide his version of events.
Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary, Yoshihide Suga, said he was speechless when he heard of Ghosn’s escape. In an interview with broadcaster BS Fuji Monday, Suga defended Japan’s legal system as fair and said he didn’t believe that Ghosn had been subjected to political persecution. Suga added that it was important to clarify the facts and make sure no similar incident occurs in the future.
Separately, one of Ghosn’s top lawyers in the country, Junichiro Hironaka, said he plans to resign once he confers with his fugitive client, as his services were no longer needed.