More details emerge on Ghosn’s escape from Japan

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New reports emerged Monday on how fugitive former Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn jumped bail in Japan, as the country’s justice minister said border controls would be bolstered after the escape.

The 65-year-old executive skipped bail a week ago, fleeing Japan where he was awaiting trial on multiple counts of financial misconduct that he denies.

The details of his escape remain spotty, with Japan saying it is still investigating how he slipped past strict security measures imposed as part of his bail conditions.

The plan is believed to have begun months beforehand, and involved about a dozen people, including a former Green Beret, and over 20 trips to Japan, the Wall Street Journal said, citing a person familiar with the matter. The Journal said the operatives visited at least 10 airports in Japan before settling on Kansai airport.

Citing people involved in the investigation, Nippon Television Network (NTV) and other media said Monday that Ghosn was caught on security camera leaving his Tokyo home by himself around noon on Dec 29. He then went to a nearby hotel. After that, he and two men boarded a bullet train from Tokyo’s Shinagawa Station.

They got off at Shin-Osaka Station, arriving around 7:30 p.m. and took a taxi to a hotel near Kansai Airport, NTV said. The two men — ex-Green Beret Michael Taylor and George Zayek, the latter who had previously worked with Taylor’s security company — left the hotel with two large boxes but Ghosn was not seen leaving the hotel, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The boxes were taken to the airport. The Wall Street Journal said that Ghosn was loaded onto a private plane in one of the large boxes marked for audio equipment, which was later found at the back of the cabin. The newspaper cited unnamed sources close to the investigation in Turkey as saying that holes had been drilled into the bottom of the container to ensure the businessman could breathe.

Japan’s transport ministry told AFP that 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 said, adding such risks are considered less likely for private jets.

At about 10:30 p.m., the plane took off for Istanbul, where Ghosn switched planes and continued to Beirut.

The justice ministry said it did not have records of Ghosn departing Japan.

Ghosn, who has French, Brazilian and Lebanese nationalities, was able to enter Lebanon on a French passport, according to airport documents seen by AFP.

A court in Tokyo had allowed Ghosn to keep a second French passport as he needed one to travel inside Japan, a source close to the matter has told AFP.

Ghosn has said he will give his own account at a hotly awaited press conference in Beirut on Wednesday.

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