By on January 2, 2020

Carlos Ghosn - Titan intro - Image: Nissan

The former auto giant who once hosted a Marie Antoinette-themed wedding party at the Palace of Versailles (and later reimbursed Renault for the supposedly “corporate” event) had his wife to thank for being able to spend New Year’s Eve as a free — but wanted — man.

According to Lebanese news outlet MTV, Carole Ghosn was the mastermind of her husband’s escape from Japan, where Carlos was being held under house arrest while awaiting trial. Like his wedding, Carlos Ghosn’s flight from captivity had all the flair of a blockbuster film plot.

It seems one of the early internet rumors was true. As reported by The Guardian, the escape plan came together after a Gregorian band appeared at Ghosn’s Tokyo home for a performance. Entering the house under the watchful eyes of security cameras placed at the entrance, the band entertained Ghosn for a period of time, after which they packed up and left… with the small-statured Ghosn hiding in one of the music cases.

Accompanying the Gregorian band were ex-special forces mercenaries hired by Carole Ghosn. Upon leaving the residence, the group drove to a small airport, where a private jet was waiting to fly to Turkey. There, Ghosn was smuggled onto a plane bound for Beirut, Lebanon.

A Lebanese foreign ministry official claims Ghosn held a French passport and Lebanese ID when he arrived in Beirut, allowing him entry to the country following a normal security procedure.

Calling her husband’s arrival “the best gift of her life,” Carole was spotted ringing in the new year with Carlos at a Lebanese party.

While the former auto executive’s flight came as a shock to Japanese authorities as well as his legal team (lawyer Junichiro Hironaka told media in Tokyo he was “surprised and baffled”), Reuters reports that a trial delay, as well as a Japanese court’s refusal to allow Ghosn to contact his wife, prompted the daring escape. Sources close to Ghosn claim the former Renault CEO and Nissan chairman learned one of his trials was pushed back to April 2021.

Arrested in Tokyo in November 2018 on charges of underreporting his income to Japanese regulators, Ghosn faces two charges related to income irregularities, as well as two counts of breach of trust. The trials stemming from those alleged crimes are now up in the air.

According to Reuters, a judicial source in Lebanon claims the country’s internal security forces have received a “red notice” arrest warrant from Interpol. Reportedly, the warrant hasn’t yet been passed on to the judiciary, nor does the source know what the country — which doesn’t extradite its citizens — plans to do about it.

Upon arriving in Lebanon, Ghosn issued a statement claiming he had not fled justice; rather, the former executive stated his flight was from “injustice and political persecution” from a “rigged Japanese justice system where guilt is presumed, discrimination is rampant, and basic human rights are denied.”

[Image: Nissan]

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68 Comments on “Man in the Box: Carlos Ghosn’s Bond-worthy Escape Leads to Interpol Warrant...”


  • avatar
    DOHC 106

    So let’s get this straight. It was initially said a trial would happen maybe around spring time I guess…now sources say another trial would happen in April 2021? Ok he is guilty before all of this..so how much more do they need since he was through anyway. Basically a person who was already guilty and would go to jail for sure then another trial to make it stick. Interesting and scary.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    Goshen issued a statement saying his flight wasn’t from justice, but from injustice

    Funny, prisons are filled with people who claim the same thing, but were caught. I’m not saying I blame him, but it sure is an interesting story as it plays out. Is Hollywood listening? I’d like to see a movie based on Goshen

  • avatar
    Z Jones

    Good for him. The court system in Japan is rigged. He never would have gotten a fair trial. I’m also not convinced any of these things he’s been accused of constitute a crime in the first place. He will probably have to spend the rest of his life in Lebanon but at least he will be a free man.

  • avatar
    tomLU86

    a “rigged Japanese justice system where guilt is presumed, discrimination is rampant, and basic human rights are denied.”

    Wow! It’s that bad. Yet, it was OK when Mr. Ghosn was CEO, with all the perks and pay…

    If the reports are correct, that’s quite an escape that Mr. Ghosn pulled off. However, I’m sure the undertaking cost more money than many (perhaps most) Americans make in a lifetime.

    The ‘system’ Ghosn now condemns as crooked endowed him and his wife with the large sums needed to escape it.

    But all is not lost…if Ghosn can create a credible automaker in Lebanon, that builds a sporty, fun car, that gets 30mpg, has room for four and a manual transmission, AND is available in the US, all is forgiven….

    • 0 avatar
      Lockstops

      Renault-Nissan, led by Ghosn didn’t generate their income due to the rigged Japanese justice system. It’s a global corporation and even in Japan I doubt that the reason they were profitable had anything to do with them using the justice system to their benefit.

      • 0 avatar
        tomLU86

        You misunderstood me.

        My point is NOT that the Japanese justice system was the key to profits.

        My point is that Ghosn took the helm of a Japanese company. He didn’t stop and say “oh, I don’t agree with these people and their society, I won’t take the job…”

        • 0 avatar
          Lockstops

          I doubt that a crooked legal system was one of the main focuses, or a thing that was under consideration. He was at Renault long before the merger with Nissan.

  • avatar
    schmitt trigger

    “….. that builds a sporty, fun car, that gets 30mpg, has room for four and a manual transmission, AND is available in the US, all is forgiven….”

    A Rogue?

  • avatar
    Dilrod

    As much as I hate seeing people like him escape justice, it’s a pretty good story. Japanese prisons are tough, I guess he wasn’t looking forward to a diet of fish heads and rice for years to come.

  • avatar
    Detroit-Iron

    Not a fan crooked execs getting away with crimes, but the Japanese “justice” system is a joke.

    • 0 avatar
      Mike Beranek

      The Japanese justice system is the way the Japanese people like it, as it should be. Anyone who can’t abide by their laws should probably not go to Japan.
      Better a judicial system that goes too hard than one that lets guilty people off the hook.

      • 0 avatar
        hreardon

        “Better a judicial system that goes too hard than one that lets guilty people off the hook.”

        Mike, I certainly hope that was tongue-in-cheek, else I strongly recommend you think carefully on that statement.

      • 0 avatar

        “The Japanese justice system is the way the Japanese people like it, as it should be. Anyone who can’t abide by their laws should probably not go to Japan.”

        Russian (or Chinese) justice system is also the way the Russian (Chinese) people like it. So you are welcome to visit Russia (China). I hope you study carefully the Russian (Chinese) laws and habits before it is too late.

        The same applies to North Korea.

      • 0 avatar
        Art Vandelay

        “Better a judicial system that goes too hard than one that lets guilty people off the hook.”

        So is it safe to say you are not a US Citizen? Because that is pretty much the polar opposite of the guiding principals our justice system is supposed to operate under.

  • avatar
    MrIcky

    Not defending him, but I will say as I read early stories about what the prosecution was like, the Japanese Courts kept moving the goal posts on him- so at least some of what he says ‘feels’ like it’s true.

    I’m not studying it close enough though to rant on the Japanese justice system.

  • avatar
    Heino

    I read in Bloomberg that he had passports from France, Brazil, and Lebanon. He also had multiple passports from one or all the three countries. Anyway these are problems only rich people have.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    I think this would actually rate as a lesser Bond escape. The best one was definitely “You Only Live Twice.”

  • avatar
    analogman

    Ghosn’s already spent over a year in jail under conditions that would be considered torture in most western countries. Not allowed to see or talk with his wife for 7 months. Restrictions even on when and how he could talk with his own lawyers. Then he finds out, oh, by the way, your trial won’t be for another year and a half. In a system with a 99% conviction rate.

    For all of his allegedly monstrous wrongdoings, Nissan was fined $22 million – less than peanuts compared to their annual revenues of $22 billion. He’s now forfeited the $14 million bail he’s paid, which is probably more than the additional income tax he would owe Japan for the supposed understatement of his income.

    I’ve traveled to Japan for decades for work and have lived there. Many (westerners) consider it one of the most corrupt countries on Earth. Bribes, payoffs, “special supplementary fees”, over-charging, directing business to “special suppliers”, Yakuza involvement, are so common as to not even be worth conversation. Under-reporting of income, while wrong, would be considered so trivial as to not be worth mentioning – for a Japanese executive.

    Nissan and the Japanese government already got what they wanted. Their whack job removed the gaijin CEO of one of their major corporations. I hope it was worth it to them for that apparent stain on their honor they felt compelled to address, given how well Nissan has been doing since then.

    Whatever he actually did or didn’t do, for all he’s been through and paid, I say, leave him alone. He’s been through enough already. I’ll look forward to what he has to say and hear his side of the story, and to the book he should write (and movie that should be made) on all this.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      I can’t believe how many people here are sympathetic to the guy who swindled ordinary shareholders out of tens of millions of dollars.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Yet anecdotally here we’ve seen posts espousing how corrupt Japan is and how salespeople pad their expenses in order to leave room for bribes. I don’t know whats going on in that country but if even half of the corruption is true it sounds more and more a case of selective enforcement of a gaijin.

        • 0 avatar
          dal20402

          There’s a big difference between the sort of under-the-table cash transactions that are unfortunate, but necessary to do business, in many places around the world and stealing eight, possibly nine, figures outright from a major corporation.

          • 0 avatar
            ect

            dal20402, I have no cross to carry for Ghosn, but as someone who’s been a C-suite executive in 2 global companies, I can tell you that option and deferred-compensation agreements of the type that Ghosn was described as having when he was originally charged, and similar forms of complex compensation agreements, are quite common, especially for executives who have multinational responsibilities and are not US citizens.

            The plans that were put in place for Ghosn were certainly drafted by top-notch legal and tax professionals, and had to have been approved by the Nissan and Renault Boards of Directors. This isn’t theft, it’s part of a multinational executive’s compensation package.

            It has been amply reported that Ghosn was travelling to Japan to fire Saikawa, who got wind of it and organized a legal ambush of Ghosn in order to save his own skin.

            I have no idea if Ghosn is guilty of any of the offences that Japan has charged him with. I do note that it was clear from the initial reporting that Japanese officialdom seemed unable to articulate the nature of Ghosn’s “crimes”, and that everything they had was fed to them by Nissan’s Japanese management. As the Church Lady used to say, “how conveeenient”.

            I also note that afaik France hasn’t charged him with anything.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            ect, this was not an above-board compensation package negotiated by the board and carrying counsel’s stamp of approval. The most concise summary of the alleged conduct is probably the SEC press release:

            https://www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2019-183

            In short, the board delegated to Ghosn the authority to set his own compensation (a remarkable move in itself) and then he took that authority and ran amok, paying himself insane amounts even by multinational CEO standards and disclosing only part of his compensation to either the board or the company’s investors.

            I think it’s entirely fair to describe the undisclosed part as embezzlement, or stealing for short.

          • 0 avatar
            ect

            dal20402, colour me sceptical. The SEC release is an accusation, not a conviction, and it relies extensively (if not exclusively) on information from Japanese prosecutors, who in turn relied entirely on information provided by Saikawa. Who, in turn, was out to kneecap Ghosn in order to save his own job.

            Whatever compensation programs were in place for Ghosn undoubtedly were prepared with expert legal and tax advice. And any CEO worth his salt would want the cover of Board approval, as insurance against any accusation that he was improperly lining his own pockets (see Nortel).

            As I said before, I have no cross to carry for Ghosn, and no opinion as to his guilt or innocence. But these charges have the appearance of being trumped up.

            As a lawyer, I can tell you that the fact that Ghosn’s trial had been postponed for a full year suggests that the prosecutors believe they don’t presently have a winning case, and are hoping they can come up with better evidence during the delay.

            I also find it noteworthy that Ghosn is facing charges in Japan, but not in France.

            In any event, as the Zen Master famously said, “we’ll see”.

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          Based on what I’ve seen, 28, I’m pretty convinced the guy basically embezzled from his company. That, not the Japanese legal system, is the crux of his problems. Someone in Ghosn’s position should have damn well known what he could and couldn’t get away with under the law. If not, he had no business being a CEO.

          I suppose I can agree with Ghosn that Japan treated him badly, but he should have known better than to flout their laws in the first place. This whole ‘desperate flight to freedom’ thing sounds like his way of ginning up sympathy.

      • 0 avatar
        MBella

        I think the big issue is that people value equal treatment under the law. All people should be held to the same standard. I don’t think we know enough facts, but from what we did hear, it was probably illegal. The problem is when only Ghosn is held to that law. I do agree that it’s Japan and there citizens’ concern, not ours.

      • 0 avatar
        ToddAtlasF1

        “I can’t believe how many people here are sympathetic to the guy who swindled ordinary shareholders out of tens of millions of dollars.”

        I’ll bite. How did Nissan stock perform under his stewardship compared to the decade before he took over and in the time since he was attacked by a corrupt legal system? Or are you just upset that a bunch of parasites won’t get rich defending him in court?

        • 0 avatar
          dal20402

          “How did Nissan stock perform under his stewardship compared to the decade before he took over and in the time since he was attacked by a corrupt legal system?”

          Worse than it would have if he had not stolen money.

        • 0 avatar
          Guitar man

          >>I’ll bite. How did Nissan stock perform under his stewardship compared to the decade before he took over and in the time since he was attacked by a corrupt legal system? <<

          Nissan was about to declare bankruptcy when it was bailed out by Renault.

          The alleged fraud was magically discovered just when Ghosn planned to merge the two companies.

          Nissan share price has collapsed 50% since the arrest. Its on the verge of insolvency again.

          • 0 avatar
            Art Vandelay

            “Nissan share price has collapsed 50% since the arrest. Its on the verge of insolvency again.”

            Eh, they won’t be missed, sadly. I miss Nissan products for sure, but not anything they have built in the last couple of decades.

      • 0 avatar
        danio3834

        “I can’t believe how many people here are sympathetic to the guy who swindled ordinary shareholders out of tens of millions of dollars.”

        Allegedly. He should have basic rights honored while awaiting trial that should take place within a reasonable amount of time. Don’t you believe in due process?

        • 0 avatar
          dal20402

          My comment didn’t say anything about the Japanese justice system. I don’t know enough about it to know whether the process he experienced was fair or not.

          But now he’s going to evade justice everywhere, and enjoy his stolen money (minus the bail he forfeited, which was a small part of it) scot-free. If I held Nissan stock I’d be outraged about that.

          • 0 avatar
            ToddAtlasF1

            If I held Nissan stock, I’d have dumped it when they shot the golden goose.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            +1, dal. This guy ripped off his employer and its’ stockholders, plain and simple. Should those stockholders be glad he made them money for so long? Sure. And should the theft change their minds about that? Absolutely.

            Should we be sorry he got mistreated by the Japanese legal system? Yes. Do we have any right to dictate how Japan treats its’ criminals? Not unless we want to restage World War II and re-occupy them. We can’t control how they deal with criminals, and vice versa.

          • 0 avatar
            ToolGuy

            dal20402,

            Let’s say hypothetically that he personally was responsible for taking $100M directly from shareholders. Nissan shares outstanding are just under 2 billion, so that’s 5 cents a share. Just as a level to gauge your outrage.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            So about half of 1 percent of total value. When a percent or two makes the difference between a good investment and a lousy one, that’s a lot of money for one guy to p!ss away.

            Yep, still outraged.

          • 0 avatar
            ajla

            “My comment didn’t say anything about the Japanese justice system. I don’t know enough about it to know whether the process he experienced was fair or not.”

            Well, that is the crux of the lack of outrage.

          • 0 avatar
            ajla

            “We can’t control how they deal with criminals, and vice versa.”

            That’s true. But it also doesn’t mean I need to care if someone skips town on them.

          • 0 avatar
            ToolGuy

            dal20402, the same guy responsible for the 5 cents (if proven) was also tied to some much larger swings on the upside.

            At some point (not saying it applies here) things become de minimis or immaterial.

            But looking at the bigger picture, when you appoint a strong individual to run things, you get their character flaws along with their strengths. Truman removed MacArthur in April 1951 – does that mean he didn’t accomplish anything worthwhile prior to that? George S. Patton may not have had the ideal bedside manner – but was he effective in other ways?

            Specific to Nissan and Ghosn: Ghosn believed and Nissan essentially acknowledged that Ghosn was worth more than he was getting. So creative minds went to work. Nissan was okay with this until they weren’t.

          • 0 avatar
            danio3834

            In the modern civilized world, due process and presumption of innocence is considered pretty important for everyone, not just for our preferred classes of people.

            “It’s pretty obvious he’s guilty” is just an indictment by Idiocracy.

            If they wanted Justice, they should have given him a fair shake by Western standards. They didn’t so he fled. No different then being held without trial in some 3rd world hell-hole and escaping.

            I suppose if some rich a$$hole was imprisoned in Zimbabwe without trial we should be glad for his comeuppance as well.

  • avatar
    Hydromatic

    Look at it this way, folks: would if it were Mary Barra or some other U.S. exec in the same position? For one, the U.S. of A. wouldn’t put up with any shabby treatment on part of the Japanese govt. A simple flex of the ol’ geopolitical muscles would take care of that little problem.

  • avatar
    jkross22

    I suspect this was allowed to happen. Ghosn was the equivalent high level prisoner to what we had with Handsy Epstein in the NYC prison. Ghosn’s escape and Epstein’s ‘suicide’ feel very similar in that they both take extreme levels of incompetence or suspension of disbelief to believe the official stories being told.

    Ponder this….how many other Japanese execs at Nissan were doing exactly the same thing as good ‘ol Carlos? I’d bet most or all of them. Was Ghosn going to name names in public? Leak details of other embarrassing/dishonorable behavior of Japanese government officials or other auto execs in Japan?

    And he escaped in a tuba case? Nah, not buying it.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      “Ponder this….how many other Japanese execs at Nissan were doing exactly the same thing as good ‘ol Carlos? I’d bet most or all of them.”

      I doubt it. Executives below the C-suite level have a much harder time stealing money. Most executives at the C-suite level have the sense to steal their money in a way that’s not illegal, by ensuring that a friendly board that will overpay them is in place. Ghosn had such a board, got paid a ton legally, and still felt compelled to steal more, behind his board’s back. Even in a world where high-level businesspeople often don’t have any ethics to speak of, that’s not normal behavior.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      This whole thing is UNBELIEVABLY embarrassing for the Japanese government – I doubt they let it happen.

  • avatar
    Oberkanone

    Goshen is a boring town. Can’t imagine Hollywood having any interest in this. Perhaps a documentary on Benteler.

  • avatar
    schmitt trigger

    I think that he will lead an exiled lifestyle in Lebanon or other Middle East countries.
    No way they will extradite them to Japan.

    Not sure what would happen if he goes to France or Brasil.

    Maybe an Israeli Special Ops team would kidnap him?

    • 0 avatar
      schmitt trigger

      I am answering my own question. According to the Deutsche Welle:

      “ The government of France on Thursday said it would not extradite Ghosn if he arrived on French soil, because they do not extradite their own citizens.”

  • avatar
    How_Embarrassing_4You

    “the escape plan came together after a Gregorian band appeared at Ghosn’s Tokyo home for a performance. Entering the house under the watchful eyes of security cameras placed at the entrance, the band entertained Ghosn for a period of time”

    Man, being persecuted while in “jail” in Japan sounds hellish.
    Gregorian band? Please, waterboard me some more.

  • avatar
    brettc

    Carlos is apparently only 5′ 7″, so he’s a little dude.

    It’s entertaining in my head to imagine him being stuffed into an instrument storage case. I sure hope a movie is made about this at some point.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      The story about the instrument case is just speculation. It doesn’t make sense anyway. A tuba for example weighs 35lbs. So, all of a sudden the musicians are struggling with a 35 lb tuba? It would look suspicious. Plenty of better ways.

  • avatar
    MrIcky

    I’ve already seen Johnny English – they don’t need to remake that movie.

  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    The difference between Carlos Ghosn and me:
    – Over New Year’s Carlos Ghosn hosted a Gregorian band, engaged mercenaries, made his escape *and* then attended a party.
    – I couldn’t even get invited to a party.

  • avatar
    NeilM

    An Interpol Red Notice is not a warrant. Don’t believe me, believe Interpol themselves, specifically where they say “A Red Notice is an international wanted persons notice, but it is not an arrest warrant”, see: https://www.interpol.int/en/How-we-work/Notices/Red-Notices

    With regard to France, that country does not extradite its own citizens, of which Ghosn is one. However because of the Renault connection, Ghosn’s activities have been under investigation there too. Were he to turn up in France, he would almost certainly be detained by the French authorities for their own reasons.

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