Beirut: Former Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn entered Lebanon using a French passport, Lebanese broadcaster MTV reported on Tuesday, citing an official source.
According to the report, Ghosn was smuggled from Japan in a wooden box inside a plane, and arrived in Turkey before proceeding to Lebanon on a private plane.
Ghosn is reportedly staying at the home of his wife Carol's family. He was in Lebanon for many hours before the news was announced, and according to Lebanese media he met with the Lebanese President, Michel Aoun, and he also received remarkable security protection from the Lebanese state.
Ghosn is believed to be planning a press conference in Beirut on January 8.
The operation was allegedly carried out by a 'Para-Military' group, coinciding with the presence of his wife in the United States. The group entered his house in Japan under the guise of a band for Christmas dinner.
The reports allege that though the band left after the party was over, Japanese authorities did not know that Carlos Ghosn was hiding in one of the boxes intended for the transfer of musical instruments. He is then said to have left the country from a local airport.
Ghosn's wife, Carole Ghosn, has however denied the story and called it 'fiction', according to Reuters, though she did not comment on his method of escape.
Ghosn had been under house arrest and close surveillance since being granted bail in April, following his initial arrest in November 2018. He had also not been allowed to communicate with his wife until November.
He's a citizen of Lebanon, which doesn't have an extradition treaty with Japan, and is held in high esteem there.
He also holds Brazilian and French citizenship. Ghosn's lawyer Junichiro Hironaka said his legal team had all of his passports, adding that it's likely he entered Lebanon using a different name.
Carlos Ghosn's remarkable escape from Japan makes him one of the most famous white-collar fugitives in recent years, joining the likes of Malaysian businessman Jho Low and Indian tycoon Vijay Mallya.
The former head of Nissan Motor Co. and Renault SA, who was facing trial in Japan for financial crimes, defended the move by saying in a statement that he'll "no longer be held hostage by a rigged Japanese justice system."
"I have not fled justice," Ghosn said in an emailed statement Tuesday. "I have escaped injustice and political persecution."
Lebanese media reported that he arrived on a private jet from Turkey, and the newspaper Annahar cited caretaker State Minister Salim Jreissati as saying the executive entered with a French passport.
“I am now in Lebanon and will no longer be held hostage by a rigged Japanese justice system where guilt is presumed, discrimination is rampant, and basic human rights are denied,” Ghosn, 65, said in a brief statement on Tuesday.
“I have not fled justice - I have escaped injustice and political persecution. I can now finally communicate freely with the media, and look forward to starting next week.”
The 65-year-old says he's the victim of a conspiracy among Nissan executives, prosecutors and government officials to prevent him from further integrating the company with Renault. He was to be tried for what prosecutors and his former colleagues at Nissan called a pervasive pattern of financial misconduct and raiding of corporate resources for personal gain. Ghosn denies those allegations.
Ghosn's strict bail terms were designed to prevent him from absconding. He couldn't spend more than one night away from his house without a judge's permission. A video camera was trained on his front door, and at the end of each month, Ghosn was required to provide a list of everyone he'd met.
Other than a one-hour video conference in November and another over Christmas, Ghosn wasn't allowed to see or speak to his wife, Carole. She told Bloomberg Television last month that Ghosn should face trial in France. The executive has French, Brazilian and Lebanese citizenship.
- Input from agencies