A week after Carlos Ghosn, the former Nissan chairman facing allegations of financial crimes in Japan, surprisingly appeared in Lebanon, details about his daring escape from a Tokyo apartment are coming into focus.
Reporting from the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal in recent days describes the tense and cramped journey Ghosn took from the country where he’s being prosecuted to the one where he’s a national hero. Now in Lebanon, which has no extradition treaty in Japan, Ghosn spoke to the media Wednesday for the first time since his escape.
“I did not escape justice, I fled injustice and persecution, political persecution,” he said. He didn’t shed much light on his Hollywood-worthy escape though. Here’s what we know:
He wasn’t being closely watched
Ghosn wasn’t in jail at the time of his escape, having posted bail of $13.8 million ahead of an expected trial later this year. But he was being watched at the Tokyo home where he was supposed to stay until his trial. The WSJ described the home as “video-monitored” and said Ghosn was allowed to leave for trips to his lawyer’s office, where he could get on the internet, and the gym.
But since his lawyers were only required to submit footage of his comings and goings once a month, it wasn’t hard for Ghosn to leave the home and travel to Grand Hyatt in Tokyo’s Roppongi district in late December. He and some hired help then took a train to Osaka where Ghosn was seen entering, but not leaving, a hotel near the airport.
He traveled in a concert equipment box
Authorities believe Ghosn climbed into a black box typically used to carry concert equipment at the hotel. Holes drilled in the bottom of the box allowed him to breathe. Soon, he was flying to Istanbul. The WSJ reports that Ghosn got out on the box mid-flight, but had to remain hidden from the flight crew. After arriving in Istanbul, he took another small jet to Beirut. The empty box, along with an identical one filled with speakers, were left behind.
He had a lot of help
Ghosn reportedly relied on around a dozen people to help him get out of Japan, including a former Green Beret with experience extracting hostages. The cloak of secrecy around the operation was so intense that some of those involved did not know who they were helping escape.
Among the jobs they performed were checking out more than ten airports and other ports to find the most porous ones. They eventually settled on the private-jet terminal at Osaka’s airport because it’s often left vacant and it didn’t have the capability to X-ray the case in which Ghosn would travel.
It was expensive
The budget for the escape was “in the millions,” a source told the WSJ. The search for the best entry points after sneaking Ghosn out of Japan extended to Indonesia, the Philippines, South Korea, Taiwan, and Thailand, the Times reports.
His escape was a surprise, to everyone
Among those caught off guard by Ghosn’s escape were his lawyer in Japan, who told the press that he still has his client’s passports, from Lebanon, Brazil, and France. Ghosn, however, had a second French passport that he used to enter Lebanon.
Alain Nahas, Ghosn’s brother-in-law, who lives in New Jersey, told Bloomberg that he too was surprised. “I found out when you found out,” he said. “If I were him I would have done the same and you would have done the same.”
Most surprised of all though may have been officials in Tokyo, where, as the Japan Times reports, Ghosn’s escape “has confounded and embarrassed authorities.”