Carlos Ghosn says Hollywood has contacted him about his unbelievable escape from Japan
Carlos Ghosn, Chairman and CEO of the Renault-Nissan Alliance, and his wife Carole pose. Picture taken May 26, 2017. REUTERS/Jean-Paul Pelissier
Carlos Ghosn has expressed interest in making a movie about his life before, from meeting with "Birdman" producer John Lesher to being at the center of rumors he was working with Netflix (which the streaming service denies).
Now, Hollywood may be even more interested in the ousted Nissan CEO, now that he's pulled off an unbelievable escape from 24-hour surveillance on house arrest in Japan to living lavishly in Lebanon.
In a new interview with CBS News, Ghosn said Hollywood had reached out to him about his life story, and responded "Why not?" when asked if he could see a project happening.
He also answered "no comment" when asked about whether his daring escape on December 29 involved any Americans, or if he really stuffed himself into a box used for concert equipment with breathing holes cut in the bottom so that he could ride a private jet out of Japan without detection.
Ghosn also told CBS News that he planned his escape himself, which was rumored to involve 15 people – including a former US Green Beret – and cost millions. For the first leg of his escape, Ghosn boarded a bullet train undetected for a 3-hour trip to the Osaka airport. "I knew that I was taking risk," Ghosn said in the interview.
"I knew that, if I was putting people around me in the loop, not only they were taking a risk, but also the risk of any slippage, any rumor, any leak, would be very high, and they would kill any project like this. So, I had to work by myself only with people who are going to operate, you know? There was nobody else. This was a condition."
The fugitive, who described himself specifically as a "fugitive from injustice," says he's the only person who knows all the details about what really happened.
In the late '90s, Ghosn helped pull Nissan back from the brink of bankruptcy. But other Nissan executives accused him of not disclosing how much he was taking out of the company as profits began to suffer in 2018, and Ghosn was arrested in Japan and charged with financial wrongdoing.
He has claimed he's innocent of all charges and needed to escape from Japan, where there is a 99% conviction rate. At Japan's request, Interpol issued a "Red Notice" for Ghosn and his wife Carole, which doesn't require Lebanon to arrest him but is a request to law enforcement worldwide that they locate and arrest a fugitive.
"I don't feel bad about it, because the way I've been treated, and the way I was looking at the system, frankly, I don't feel any guilt," Ghosn told CBS News. The Lebanese government has restricted him from leaving the country, but he is now believed to be residing in a $15 million mansion.
على طريقة "جيمس بوند".. تعرف على مهندس عملية تهريب غصن أخبار محليّة - الاثنين 13 كانون الثاني 2020 - 19:12 -
ما تزال الفرضيات والتكهنات والاحتمالات تطرح بقوة وبشكل مستمر حول الآلية التي اتبعها كارلوس غصن مدير شركة نيسان - رينو، للفرار والخروج من اليابان، والعبور عبر إسطنبول والوصول لوجهته النهائية لبنان. قصص كثيرة وروايات اكثر طرحت لمحاولة محاكاة الطريقة، خصوصا وأن البلد الذي خرج منه غصن يصعب التهرب من أنظمته وقوانينه الرقمية، فاليابان بلد التقنيات والتكنولوجيا والمراقبة الدقيقة. ومما كشف مؤخرا عن آلية الفرار، بحسب تقرير لـ بي بي سي، فقد نقلت طائرة خاصة من طراز "بومباردييه" تملكها شركة طيران تركية خاصة، غصن من اليابان إلى تركيا، ومنها إلى لبنان. وتناولت وسائل الإعلام الدور الأساسي الذي قام به شخصان رافقا غصن في رحلته من اليابان إلى تركيا، وخصوصا الأمريكي مايكل تايلور. وقالت صحيفة نيويورك تايمز إن مواطنين لبنانيين قاموا بدور الوسيط في تكليف تايلور بعملية ترتيب فرار غصن من اليابان إلى لبنان. وتقول وسائل إعلام يابانية إن من بين الخطوات التي قام بها تايلور خلال مراحل إخراج غصن من اليابان، أنه استقل قطاراً فائق السرعة من العاصمة طوكيو إلى مدينة أوساكا، الواقعة على بعد نحو 500 كم. وهناك، استقل طائرة خاصة كانت تنتظره في مطار المدينة الذي لا يخضع لإجراءات تفتيش دقيقة، مصطحبا معه غصن بعد أن وضعه داخل صندوق كبير يستعمل لنقل الآلات الموسيقية. وصلت الطائرة إلى تركيا، وهناك تم نقل غصن إلى طائرة أخرى كانت تنتظره على المدرج، وبعدها طار إلى بيروت.
"تهديد" ونقلت وسائل الإعلام التركية عن مدير العمليات في شركة الطيران MNG التي تم استئجار الطائرات منها، أوكان كوسمان، أنه ساعد في تهريب غصن دون أن يعلم من هو. وقد ألقت السلطات التركية القبض على كوسمان بتهمة تهريب البشر. وصرح كوسمان للسلطات المعنية أن أحد معارفه القدماء في لبنان اتصل به وطلب منه المساعدة في قضية "ذات أهمية على المستوى العالمي" وأن أسرته ستكون في خطر إذا رفض الطلب. وقال كوسمان في إفادته للشرطة: "كنت خائفا. أخذت رجلاً من طائرة ووضعته في طائرة أخرى في المطار. لم أكن أعرف من هو". تايلور البالغ من العمر 59 عاما، هو عنصر قوات خاصة أمريكية سابق، خدم في العديد من بلدان الشرق الاوسط، ودخل السجن في الولايات المتحدة بتهمة تقديم رشوة لمسؤول في مكتب التحقيقات الفيدرالي لوقف التحقيق في عقد أبرمته وزارة الدفاع الأمريكية مع شركة تايلور لتدريب القوات الخاصة الأفغانية.
أداء بارز لم يكمل تايلور دراسته، وترك مقاعد الدراسة بنهاية سن المراهقة، وسار على خطى زوج والدته، فالتحق بالجيش. وما لبث أن لمع نجمه وأظهر تفوقاً ملفتاً مكنته من الانضمام إلى القوات الخاصة. خلال مرحلة الحرب الباردة، كانت مهمة الوحدة الفائقة السرية التي خدم فيها تايلور، وهي وحدة "المتفجرات النووية الخاصة بعمليات التدمير"، تنفيذ أفرادها عملية إنزال جوي بالمظلات من ارتفاعات شاهقة خلف خطوط العدو، وفتح المظلة في آخر لحظة وتفجير قنبلة نووية يدوية يحملها كل واحد منهم في حقيبة يدوية في معسكر "فولدا غاب" في ألمانيا، حال تعرضه للغزو السوفيتي. مثل عام 1982 نقطة تحول في مسرة تايلور، إذ كان ضمن المجموعة الأولى من القوات الخاصة الأمريكية التي تم نشرها في لبنان في ذروة الحرب الأهلية، بهدف تقديم التدريب لمليشيا "القوات اللبنانية" المسيحية في أعقاب اغتيال الرئيس اللبناني بشير الجميل، والغزو الإسرائيلي للبنان في ذات العام. بنى تايلور علاقة قوية مع الأقلية المارونية في لبنان منذ ذلك الوقت، وهي مستمرة حتى الآن. ترك تايلور الجيش الأمريكي عام 1983 بعد أربع سنوات من انضمامه إليه. وعاد إلى لبنان فيما بعد ليعمل مقاولاً أمنيا، ويشرف على تدريب القوات المسيحية. خلال تلك الفترة، تعلم تايلور اللغة العربية وتزوج اللبنانية لمياء عبود عام 1985. وخلال تلك الفترة أيضا، تعرف تايلور على اللبناني جورج أنطوان زايك، الذي كان إلى جانب تايلورعلى متن الطائرة التي نقلت غصن من اليابان إلى أنقرة. عاد تايلور برفقة زوجته إلى نيويورك عام 1985. وبفضل خبرته في مجال الأمن ومعرفته بالاوضاع في لبنان، بدأ العمل مع مكتب التحقيقات الفيدرالي الأمريكي، وغيره من أجهزة الأمن الأمريكية، للتصدي لتجارة المخدرات وتزوير العملة. عام 1988 كلفته الحكومة الأمريكية باختراق عصابات الإتجار بالمخدرات في لبنان، التي كان يمتد نشاطها من الشرق الأوسط حتى ولاية ماساتشوستس الأمريكية. ونجح تايلور في الاقتراب من كبار مسؤولي عصابات المخدرات في لبنان، وفي الوصول إلى مصانع إنتاج المخدرات في وادي البقاع اللبناني، حيث كانت تنتشر حقول زراعة الحشيش تحت إشراف القوات السورية هناك. ونجحت السلطات الأمريكية بفضل جهود تايلور في مصادرة قارب يحمل كمية من الحشيش بلغت قيمتها 100 مليون دولار. عام 1994، بدأ تايلور العمل لحسابه الخاص في مجال الأمن، حين أسس شركة أمنية باسم "الهيئة الأمنية الأمريكية الخاصة"، وأبرمت الشركة عقودا مع جهات حكومية وخاصة لتقديم الخدمات الأمنية لها، مثل شبكة "إيه بي سي" التلفزيونية، وشبكة فوكس، بجانب تقديم الخدمات للطائرات الخاصة. ولجأت صحيفة نيويورك تايمز لشركة تايلور بهدف تحرير مراسلها ديفيد رود الذي تعرض للخطف في أفغانستان. كما قام تايلور بإنقاذ سيدة أمريكية وأطفالها الثلاثة من براثن زوجها اللبناني الذي كان يسيء معاملتهم. فلجأت والدة المرأة إلى تايلور بعد فشل مقاول آخر في إخراج الأم والأبناء من سوريا، وبالفعل نقلهم من لبنان إلى سوريا سراً. ونجح تايلور في إخراج الأطفال والسيدة والمقاول الأمني من سوريا بفضل علاقاته القوية في سوريا ولبنان.
ازدهار الأعمال ازدهرت أعمال تايلور بعد الغزو الأمريكي لأفغانستان والعراق، إذ تولت شركته تدريب قوات الكوماندوز وحراسة البنية التحتية في جنوب العراق، وتقديم الحماية لفرق التحقيق في المقابر الجماعية وموظفي شركات النفط، ولجأ تايلور إلى توظيف العديد من المسيحيين اللبنانيين بعد أن ازدهرت أعمال شركته. حكمت محكمة أمريكية على تايلور بالسجن لمدة عامين بعد إدانته بمحاولة رشوة رجل أمن في مكتب التحقيقات الفدرالي، الذي كان يحقق في عقد أبرمته وزارة الدفاع الامريكية مع تايلور لتدريب القوات الخاصة الأفغانية. فقد تضخم عقد صغير أبرمه تايلور، ليصل إلى 54 مليون دولار. وقد دفع بعض عائدات العقد إلى معارفه السابقين في وزارة الدفاع. تأثرت أعمال تايلور إلى حد كبير بسبب هذه القضية وتدهورت كثيراً، إذ تراجعت عائدات الشركة إلى 600 ألف دولار فقط عام 2012. عندما خرج تايلور من السجن عام 2015، أعادت له الحكومة مليوني دولار من المبالغ التي صادرتها من شركته. بعدها حاول تايلور تسويق منتج طاقة للرياضيين، لكن لم يلق الكثير من النجاح في هذا المجال، وعاد إلى الأضواء مع انفجار قضية فرار غصن. قالت العديد من وسائل الاعلام إن التخطيط لعملية إخراج غصن من اليابان تطلبت شهورا عدة، وأن الفريق سافر إلى اليابان أكثر من عشرين مرة، وقام بعمليات استطلاع لأكثر من عشرة مطارات يابانية، إلى أن تمكن من العثور على ثغرة أمنية في مطار أوساكا يمكن استغلالها لإخراج غصن من اليابان. في العاصمة طوكيو خرج عصن من الشقة التي كان يُحتجز فيها رهن الإقامة الجبرية. التقى بشخصين في فندق في طوكيو واستقل الثلاثة قطاراً سريعاً إلى مدينة أوساكا وبعد أن لبس غصن قناع وجه صُنع خصيصا له وقبعة،. دخل الثلاثة فندقاً قريباً من المطار، وهناك تم وضع غصن في صندوق كبير يُستخدم في نقل مكبرات الصوت العملاقة. أُحدثت ثقوب في أسفل الصندوق لمساعدة غصن على التنفس. وتقول السلطات اليابانية إن صور كاميرات المراقبة في الفندق تُظهر شخصين فقط يخرجان من الفندق مساء ومعهما صندوقان كبيران. تم نقل الصندوق الكبير إلى الطائرة دون أن يخضع للتفتيش الجمركي. أقلعت الطائرة وحلقت لمدة 12 ساعة متواصلة عبر الأجواء الروسية، متفادية الأجواء الكورية والصينية والمنغولية والكازاخية إلى الحد الاقصى، حتى وصلت الى مطار أتاتورك في اسطنبول. وبهدف تفادي إثارة الشبهات، جرى تبديل الطائرة هناك حيث تم نقل غصن إلى طائرة أخرى تابعة للشركة التركية واقلعت بعد 45 دقيقة من وصول الأولى ونقلته إلى مطار بيروت، دون أن يرافق تايلور غصن من اسطنبول إلى بيروت. وقالت وسائل الإعلام التركية إنه تم العثور على الصندوق الذي كان يُعتقد أن غصن اختبأ فيه داخل الطائرة. عربي 21
Renault shares hit six-year lows on Monday as investors worried the French autom...
Renault shares fall on worries Nissan alliance doomed without Ghosn
PARIS/TOKYO (Reuters) - Renault shares hit six-year lows on Monday as investors worried the French automaker’s 20-year cost-sharing alliance with Nissan is headed for a break-up without Carlos Ghosn to hold it together. Long-standing tensions in the Franco-Japanese partnership have been heightened since Ghosn’s arrest in Tokyo in November 2018 on allegations of financial misconduct, which he denies.
Following a dramatic flight from Japanese justice late last month, Ghosn called the alliance a “masquerade” during a press briefing last week.
A Financial Times report on Monday that Nissan executives are making contingency plans for a split with Renault appeared to accelerate a sell-off in the French manufacturer’s shares.
At 1528 GMT, Renault shares were down 3.2%, the biggest faller on Paris’ CAC 40 index. The shares have lost more than a third of their value since Ghosn’s arrest and his subsequent ouster as head of the alliance. Ghosn’s attacks and the loss of confidence among investors have caught Renault and Nissan management in the middle of transitions to new chief executives.
The companies are trying to forge solutions to problems with their long-standing partnership, and launch new joint industrial projects, people familiar with the situation said. So far, those efforts haven’t produced visible results.
Alliance relations were further strained last year by Renault’s failed attempt to merge with Fiat Chrysler. But the roots of the tensions go back years.
A major sticking point since 2015 has been the equal division of costs for R&D into new technology and products, two sources close to Nissan said.
That strategy “did not compensate Nissan’s work properly: Nissan’s engineering output was 40% better, meaning Nissan engineers on average produced 40% more than their Renault counterparts in a given amount of time spent on a job,” said one of the sources.
“When measured more strictly, Nissan’s output in some cases was double Renault’s,” he said.
Nissan has asked for an analysis of the workloads and productivity of Renault and Nissan staffs, one person familiar with the situation said.
The companies hope changes at the top could mark a reset for the partnership, but people familiar with the situation said divisions within Nissan’s senior management are complicating efforts to fix the alliance and launch new projects.
Renault is in the process of choosing a new CEO after ousting Thierry Bollore in October and late last year Nissan picked Makoto Uchida, known for having close ties with Renault, as CEO.
Some developments set in motion during the Ghosn era are due to come to fruition in 2020 - Nissan’s crossover electric car, based on its Ariya concept model, will be the first to launch on the two firms’ new joint electric platform, and in 2021 a Renault equivalent should also take shape.
Jean-Dominique Senard, who joined Renault from tyre maker Michelin as chairman in early 2019 after Ghosn’s arrest, has vowed to get the alliance working by this year, although the firms have yet to present new common initiatives. “The problem is today, there’s nothing concrete as we look ahead, no goals,” a former senior employee at Renault said.
France Must Make Nissan Concessions Or Renault Faces Existential Threat
Carlos Ghosn speaks at a press conference in Beirut, Lebanon, Jan. 8, 2020. (AP Photo/Maya ... [+] ASSOCIATED PRESS
Renault faces an isolated and precarious future as its alliance with Nissan stumbles and possibly fails. There is only one sensible route which might guarantee success and that requires the eating of serious humble pie by the French government.
France has to give up or at least slash its stake in Renault, which in turn must concede more power to Nissan in what has become a one-sided Alliance agreement.
And a report in the Financial Times on Sunday saying Nissan has accelerated contingency planning for life without Renault, shows action is urgently required.
Earlier last year, Renault was expected to merge with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), but that was vetoed by the French government, courtesy of its 15% stake. France’s Groupe PSA stepped in and has now agreed a merger with FCA. The reasons for the veto were never explained, but the decision means that any future suitor for Renault is likely to end up looking elsewhere, rather than deal with this powerful and unpredictable shareholder. Meanwhile the alliance with Nissan and the minor partner Mitsubishi Motors has been creaking so badly, it’s hard to see how it can continue, particularly in the light of the Carlos Ghosn shenanigans.
When Ghosn-led Renault bailed Nissan out of bankruptcy in 1999, the French company clearly had the upper hand. But it still has a 43% stake in the Japanese company, even though over the years Nissan has outperformed Renault. Nissan has a 15% non-voting stake in Renault. As Nissan was restored to profitability, it soon was making much more money than its owner and that became an increasing irritant to the Japanese.
Ghosn was apparently told by the French government early in 2018 to make the alliance permanent and he told a press conference in Beirut last week he had warned that Nissan was unlikely to agree with this while France was a Renault shareholder. Ghosn was arrested on November 19, 2018 in Tokyo when he was chairman of the French-Japanese Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance. He was charged with failing to disclose $80 million worth of compensation. Ghosn maintains his innocence. And with the controversy burgeoning around Ghosn after his escape from Japan, it’s worth remembering this. Ghosn was held for weeks, initially without charge. He was subject to interrogation without his lawyer present. Prosecutors tried to coerce a confession. He was finally allowed bail after months in jail, with only limited contact with his wife. Perhaps most importantly, in Japan, more than 99% of defendants are convicted.
Meanwhile the Alliance has been in a kind of limbo, with many investors assuming it would soon be laid to rest. If that happened, Renault would be alone in the global auto industry where scale was the key to mass market survival. After the failure of the FCA negotiations, there are no obvious candidates for a merger or alliance. GM has pulled out of Europe. Ford Motor has a deal with Volkswagen on electric cars and vans. The minor players in Japan like Mazda, Suzuki and Subaru are close to Toyota. That maybe leaves a deal with a Chinese manufacturer. The bottom line appears to be that if the 10-million-cars-a-year Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance fails, there is nowhere for Renault to go.
In the real world, it has no other option to create scale and efficiency than to make the alliance with Nissan work. The key to this is the French government. It must grit its teeth, eat humble pie, humiliate itself, and sell off its stake in Renault, which in turn must offer Nissan an equal stake in the alliance.
Investment researcher Evercore ISI reckons it’s curtains for the alliance, and France is unlikely to be humble enough to make the concessions Nissan will need.
“We firmly believe the relationship between Renault and Nissan and hence the Alliance is broken and most likely beyond the point of repair,” Evercore ISI analyst Arndt Ellinghorst said.
Fitch Ratings analyst Emmanuel Bulle is a bit more positive, although he assumes egos on both sides will be constrained for the greater good of the alliance.
That’s a bit of an assumption. “(for Renault) working further with Nissan will be critical if the companies want to remain credible players in the industry. Competing against VW, teaming up with Ford in some domains, Toyota and its solid financial structure, a new formidable competitor in the name of PSA/FCS, relentless German premium brands and other Asian players with global ambitions, could create a renewed sense of urgency at Renault and Nissan to resume joint discussions and projects and find a common ground to work together,” Bulle said.
Bulle said there have been doubts expressed about the value of synergies actually nailed down by the alliance, but these could be achieved if Renault and Nissan refocus their efforts, and certainly better than if the marriage ends in divorce.
“I believe that it will be easier to mend the relationship between Renault sand Nissan and build up on the work already done over time than starting from scratch with new partners, Chinese or not,” Bulle said.
Investment researcher Jefferies sees big theoretical possibilities for the alliance, but analyst Philippe Houchois has his doubts that the problems can be resolved.
“Outside of the alliance, Renault looks a bit lonely and small and because of the way France has behaved in the past, by vetoing the FCA merger, why would other companies want to talk,” Houchois asked.
Houchois said Renault and Nissan have to make clear that the claimed synergies of shared purchasing and shared product engineering have been achieved. France needs to show flexibility.
“France needs to make concessions and allow Nissan more equity. But I’m not sure equalising the stake, the most logical option, is going to happen,” Houchois said.
He said if the alliance can’t be repaired, there is a looser option where Renault could still get some benefit from joint plants, engineering and purchasing with Nissan. Nissan could then focus on Mitsubishi which together would have more bite and scale than Renault, which would leave the French company looking very isolated.
Evercore ISI’s Ellinghorst can see a route to saving the alliance, but doesn’t believe France will be able to face making the necessary concessions.
“While we believe a divorce sadly appears to be the more likely outcome, we continue to stress that if the Alliance is to be salvaged, the relationship needs rebalancing. In order to achieve this, the French side should sell down to less than 40% which would trigger Nissan’s eligibility for voting rights in Renault. Both parties should sit eye-to-eye at the table,” Ellinghorst said.
“This, in our view, would better reflect today’s economic realities, honor each side’s stakeholders and create shareholder value. The fact that the French side doesn’t seem to be willing to give up some of its control over Nissan is at the core of all problems in our view,” Ellinghorst said.
France has to make a tough but simple decision. It must sell its stake in Renault or slash it drastically, and lean on Renault to concede equality of ownership to Nissan in the alliance. If not, Renault will be left exposed to bigger predators in the global auto market.
The Tokyo Job: Inside Carlos Ghosn’s Escape to Beirut An elite extraction team spirited the former CEO out of Japan by studying hotel layouts and airport security.
January 14, 2020,
Sometime last fall, a security contractor based in Asia took a call that he found curious. The man on the other end of the line, a longtime acquaintance and, like him, an expert in protecting VIPs and valuable cargoes in challenging environments, was looking to hire for a job in Japan. He offered few specifics. The assignment would involve escorting someone out of the country, he said. It would pay well. And he was looking for operatives with military or police experience and, ideally, fair-skinned East Asian faces—the kind that wouldn’t stand out in Tokyo.
The contractor wanted to know more. Who would the operatives be protecting? What was the specific threat? Would the client be carrying cash or gold or something else of value? The caller wouldn’t say. The contractor was noncommittal but said he would get in touch if anyone else came to mind. They hung up, and the contractor didn’t really think about the job again—until he and the rest of the world saw the news about Carlos Ghosn.
Just before New Year’s, Ghosn, the ousted leader of Nissan Motor Co. and Renault SA, completed a daring escape from Tokyo, where he was facing criminal charges that could have put him in prison for more than a decade. Despite being under intense surveillance while out on bail, with a camera trained on his front door and undercover agents tailing him when he left his house, Ghosn somehow made it to Lebanon, where he lived for most of his adolescence and is a citizen.
For Ghosn, who’d spent more than 100 days in solitary confinement in a Tokyo jail and was contemplating trial in a country where prosecutors virtually never lose, it was a stunning coup. Lebanon has a policy against extraditing its citizens, and as one of the most successful member of the country’s diaspora, he’s a national hero, with friends who include some of the biggest names in local business and politics. His face is on a postage stamp. Safely in Beirut, he could finally attempt to rebut the allegations against him, which he argues were the result of a conspiracy between nationalist factions, both within Nissan and the Japanese government, that were determined to take him out of play. And, most important for someone who spent the better part of two decades building and cultivating his public image, he could set to work restoring his reputation as a great man of business, maybe even preparing a comeback.
Ghosn left Tokyo by bullet train.
Illustration: Woshibai for Bloomberg Businessweek
A few weeks after Ghosn’s escape, it’s not at all clear that he’ll be successful. While he is, for the foreseeable future, beyond the reach of Japanese law enforcement, his legal problems are nowhere near being resolved. Ghosn is still under investigation in France, where Renault is based, while the government of Japan has issued a so-called Red Notice in his name through Interpol, exposing him to possible arrest the moment he enters a country less hospitable than Lebanon. Japanese prosecutors have also obtained an arrest warrant for his wife, Carole, claiming she gave false testimony in their investigation. And the task of restoring his stature as one of the leading lights of global capitalism is enormous. Even some of his closest former colleagues remain unsure what to make of the allegations against him. It’s hard to imagine major corporations, banks, or investors agreeing to work alongside a man who’s officially a fugitive.
Gathered with his family in the country of his youth, Ghosn has undoubtedly upgraded his personal circumstances. What remains to be seen, though, is whether he’s simply traded one form of confinement for another.
The human-size box used in the escape.
Illustration: Woshibai for Bloomberg Businessweek
While out on bail, Ghosn spent much of his time at his lawyers’ office in central Tokyo, in an anonymous mid-rise building near the Imperial Palace. Forbidden under the terms of his release from accessing the internet anywhere else, he’d been given the use of a cramped meeting room with a bare table, whiteboard, and a laptop. It was also the sole location where Ghosn was allowed to call Carole, and even then only with the approval of a Tokyo judge. From April, when he had last seen her, to the end of the year, he received this permission twice: once in November, and again, for one hour, on Christmas Eve.
Being unable to see his wife was the hardest part of his ordeal, Ghosn would say later, an absence that “put me on my knees.” His mood only darkened on Christmas Day, after a pretrial hearing during which he learned that prosecutors wanted to delay the second of his two trials until 2021. In all, his lawyers told him, it might take five years to fully resolve his cases.
Ghosn was indicted four times, all for financial misconduct. The first two charges accuse him of underreporting his compensation in official filings, leaving out tens of millions of dollars that investigators say he intended eventually to get. In the third and fourth indictments, for breach of trust, prosecutors accused him of improperly benefiting from Nissan’s relationships with partners in the Arab world, and in one case of diverting $5 million of company money to his own ends via a car dealer group in Oman. Ghosn has denied wrongdoing, arguing that the compensation prosecutors claim was misreported was only hypothetical, and that he never misused Nissan funds. (He also settled a civil complaint from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, which claimed he failed to adequately disclose his compensation, agreeing to a $1 million penalty without admitting the agency’s allegations.)
Most criminal defendants, in Japan or elsewhere, don’t have the option to simply exit their proceedings if they believe they can’t win. Ghosn—with ample financial resources and passports from Lebanon, France, and Brazil—did. For months, a team of more than a dozen security operatives, led by a U.S. Army Special Forces veteran, had been designing a plan to get him to Lebanon, the country where Ghosn has the most extensive connections. The secrecy was intense: Some of the participants, according to a person familiar with the operation, didn’t know the identity of the person they were going to extract, even after they’d accepted the job.
The team’s leader had a career that couldn’t have been more different from Ghosn’s. Born in Staten Island, N.Y., Michael Taylor joined the U.S. Army after high school and was accepted into the Green Berets, accumulating skills that included HALO jumps: the delicate art of leaping from a plane at 30,000 feet or more and free-falling as long as possible before opening the parachute. He was deployed to Lebanon during the country’s brutal, 15-year civil war, which ended in 1990, and there met his future wife, Lamia—like Ghosn, a member of the country’s Maronite Christian minority. After leaving the Army, Taylor put his abilities to work in the private sector, setting up a Boston-area company, American International Security Corp., that protected executives in dangerous places, prepared vulnerability assessments for critical infrastructure, and even planned operations to rescue kidnap victims. He also collaborated with agencies like the Drug Enforcement Administration and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, on one occasion working undercover to investigate Lebanese drug traffickers, and developed a relationship with Duane Clarridge, a legendary CIA officer who oversaw a private espionage network in his retirement.
Taylor, 59, also had a habit of operating in gray areas. In the 1990s he was indicted in Massachusetts for charges including illegal wiretapping and pleaded guilty to misdemeanor offenses. Later, the New York Timesreported that he was connected to an “off-the-books” espionage network in Afghanistan, which was operating in apparent defiance of military rules against using private contractors as spies. (Taylor wasn’t accused of wrongdoing.) And in 2012 federal prosecutors charged him with bribing an Army officer to win $54 million in contracts and conspiring with an FBI agent in an attempt to kill an investigation into the matter. Taylor pleaded guilty to wire fraud and violating federal procurement law and was sentenced to two years in prison. AISC’s business collapsed.
Ghosn celebrated New Year’s Eve in Lebanon.
Illustration: Woshibai for Bloomberg Businessweek
It’s not clear how Taylor was connected to Ghosn, although Lebanon is small enough that there would be only a couple of degrees of separation between their extended families. Even for Taylor, getting the executive out of Japan would be an extreme assignment. After almost 20 years at the top of one of Japan’s largest companies, Ghosn was perhaps the best-known foreigner in Tokyo, hardly someone who could slip onto an airplane or ship without being noticed. And he wasn’t a hostage of a militant group or an abducted child; he was a criminal defendant, under prosecution by the government of a bedrock U.S. ally. Taylor and everyone he hired might face charges if their identities were discovered, at the very least restricting their future travel and employment, and at worst landing them in prison. The security contractor who was approached about an operation in Japan said he would never accept an assignment as perilous as the Ghosn job; those who might, he said, would need extremely generous compensation for the risks involved, perhaps pushing the total cost to $15 million or more.
Yet according to the person familiar with the operation, Taylor was eager to help, and not only because of the potential payoff. Despite their drastically different backgrounds, Taylor sympathized with Ghosn, the person said. Taylor had been denied bail in the runup to his own trial, confined to Utah jails half a country away from his home in Massachusetts. In Ghosn he saw someone in a similar situation, a man he felt had been treated unfairly. Whether Ghosn was guilty seemed beside the point.
On the ground in Japan, Taylor would be assisted by an old friend from Lebanon, George-Antoine Zayek. A gemologist by training, Zayek had joined a Christian militia during the civil war, sustaining a severe leg wound during the fighting. Doctors in Beirut wanted to amputate; instead, Taylor helped arrange for more sophisticated treatment in Boston. Zayek kept his leg, but acquired a limp—and a lifelong loyalty to Taylor. He became a U.S. citizen and was involved with Taylor’s companies in the 1990s, later working for him in Iraq. Taylor declined to comment on Ghosn’s escape; Zayek could not be reached for comment.
The final phase of the Ghosn operation began just before Christmas. On Dec. 24 a company called Al Nitaq Al Akhdhar was billed $175,000 by MNG Jet, a Turkish aviation group, for chartering a Bombardier Global Express jet, which has a range of more than 11,000 kilometers (6,835 miles). If anyone from MNG had tried to visit this client, they would have found it difficult: There’s no company called Al Nitaq Al Akhdhar at the Dubai address it provided on the charter paperwork. Around the same time, MNG has said, a different client arranged to hire another plane, a shorter-range Bombardier, to fly from Istanbul to Beirut.
The extraction team noticed something: For some reason, the Japanese operatives typically didn’t follow their target when he entered a hotel
On the morning of Sunday, Dec. 29, Taylor and Zayek landed at Kansai International Airport, near Osaka, on the chartered Global Express. On board were also two pilots and, according to people familiar with the flight who asked not to be identified, a couple of large black cases of the kind concert roadies use to hold audio gear. Later the same day, according to surveillance camera footage reported on by Japanese media, Ghosn left his residence, a rented house in the busy Roppongi neighborhood. He wore a hat and a surgical-style mask. (Used to protect against germs, these aren’t unusual in Japan.) Taylor’s advance team had chosen Ghosn’s next destination carefully. During the months its members spent observing the plainclothes agents following Ghosn around Tokyo, they’d noticed something, according to the person familiar with the operation. For some reason, the Japanese operatives typically didn’t follow their target when he entered a hotel.
Ghosn soon arrived at the nearby Grand Hyatt Tokyo, which is attached to Roppongi Hills, a giant mall and office complex with a confusing array of entrances and exits on different floors. From there, according to Japanese media, he made his way to Shinagawa station, a major rail hub, and onto a high-speed train to Osaka. Ghosn’s presence on public transport wouldn’t, in itself, have been suspicious. Under the terms of his bail he was permitted to travel domestically, and he’d previously visited Kyoto, which is on the same bullet-train line, with one of his daughters.
Like everything else about Ghosn’s escape, the means of departure from Japan had been chosen with utmost care, with Taylor’s team evaluating a wide range of scenarios. Using a fake passport to get Ghosn onto a private jet as a passenger was a gamble: Japanese entry stamps contain QR codes, which if scanned would quickly reveal the subterfuge. Another option, spiriting Ghosn onto a cargo vessel that would be purchased for the operation, was eventually rejected as too complicated.
As part of their reconnaissance, Taylor’s people had surveyed airports all over the country, looking for terminals where security was lax. A few months ago, the person familiar with the operation said, the team observed that the X-ray machines in Kansai’s private terminal were much too small to scan a large box—and oversize items were simply waved through. The routine was the same on the night of Dec. 29. Airport officials didn’t examine the large black cases that Taylor and Zayek had with them, and they were loaded onto the Bombardier without incident. The plane was bound for Istanbul; filing a flight plan listing Lebanon as the destination would have raised too many red flags, according to a person familiar with the subsequent investigation. A little after 11 p.m., the jet was in the air.
It landed at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport about 12 hours later. An MNG operations manager named Okan Kosemen, who’d helped arrange the charter, was waiting to greet it. In subsequent statements to a Turkish judge, Kosemen recounted that when he came on board, two Americans—presumably Taylor and Zayek—led him to the rear of the cabin. There, waiting in the bathroom cubicle, was Ghosn. Kosemen waited for the crew to leave, shooed away a technician who wanted to work on the aircraft, and bundled Ghosn into a Ford van to take him to the second plane and to Lebanon. (Kosemen says he didn’t know he was aiding a fugitive when he arranged the charter and that one of the people involved threatened to harm his family if he didn’t cooperate. MNG also said it had no knowledge Ghosn would be on the flights.)
Ghosn’s passports had been taken as a condition of his bail—with one exception. He had two French passports, a privilege granted to citizens with particularly demanding travel schedules. He’d received permission to keep the second one; Japanese law requires foreigners to carry their identity documents at all times. The caveat was that it had to be kept in a plastic case, sealed with a lock to which only his lawyers had the combination. But Ghosn got it open and later presented it to an inspector at Beirut’s Rafic Hariri International Airport like any other traveler. It was the first legal act he’d performed since leaving Japan.
Making his case at the Beirut press conference.
Illustration: Woshibai for Bloomberg Businessweek
For the first few days after Ghosn’s departure, official Japan seemed unsure how to react. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his deputies made no official statements; at the Ministry of Justice and the Tokyo prosecutor’s office, journalists struggled to get a comment from a spokesperson. The near-silence briefly fueled theories that Ghosn might even have had a subtle green light for his escape—that elements within the government had grown tired of the public-relations headache of prosecuting such a high-profile defendant and decided it would be better to be rid of him.
Those theories were soon discarded. On Jan. 7 prosecutors said they’d obtained an arrest warrant for Carole, citing what they claimed were false statements she made more than eight months earlier. Ghosn’s representatives viewed the move, which was soon followed by a report that Japan would seek a Red Notice for her, as a clear attempt to intimidate him before his first public appearance since his escape. That was planned for Jan. 8 in Beirut, in the offices of the national journalists’ association, and billed by Ghosn as a chance for him to expose the “injustice and political persecution” behind his predicament. As the appointed time approached, Japanese camera crews thronged the sidewalk outside the venue; most had been denied accreditation to attend, a decision Ghosn said was motivated by what he viewed as unfair treatment by the Tokyo press.
As Ghosn’s speech went on, entropy took hold. At one point he committed the No. 1 faux pas for foreigners in Japan, comparing his arrest to the attack on Pearl Harbor
Shielded by bodyguards, he entered the room just before 3 p.m. His hair, previously jet black, was wispy and gray, and deep lines marked his face. But otherwise he was unmistakably Ghosn: confident, unflappable, and in total command of his material. His address lasted more than an hour, illustrated with documents projected onto the wall behind him. Ghosn argued that the allegations against him had effectively been cooked up, the result of a conspiracy to halt his plans to more closely integrate Nissan with its partner Renault. The plot’s organizers, he said, included Hiroto Saikawa, his successor as Nissan chief executive officer, Hitoshi Kawaguchi, who was in charge of government relations, and board member Masakazu Toyoda. All have rejected his claims.
Only two topics were off-limits: the particulars of his escape, to protect the people who helped him, and the identities of Japanese officials he believes participated in the conspiracy—a concession, according to a person familiar with Ghosn’s planning, to concerns within the Lebanese government about complicating relations with Japan more than he already had. “I am here to clear my name. … These allegations are untrue, and I should have never been arrested,” he said. “I was presumed guilty before the eyes of the world and subject to a system whose only objective is to coerce confessions, secure guilty pleas, without regard to the truth.” His escape, he said, was “a risk one only takes if resigned to the impossibility of a fair trial.”
But as Ghosn’s speech went on, entropy took hold. He jumped rapidly from allegation to allegation at a pace that was difficult to follow even for observers versed in the latest Ghosniana. At one point he committed the No. 1 faux pas for foreigners in Japan, comparing his arrest to the attack on Pearl Harbor. There were flashes of arrogance, with Ghosn describing Nissan as “in the dirt” before he arrived and boasting that “20 books of management were written about me.” He devoted a significant stretch of time to a relatively minor issue—whether his comped use of a room at Versailles for his 2016 wedding celebration constituted a sort of kickback for Renault’s sponsorship of the palace—providing a convoluted explanation that he later summed up with, “If I had thought there had been an ethical problem, I wouldn’t have done it.” He then spent more than an hour gamely answering questions, switching among English, French, Arabic, and, out of deference to a small but enthusiastic crew of Brazilian reporters, Portuguese. He may not have exactly been having fun, but he clearly felt liberated.
That feeling won’t last if his former captors have anything to say about it. The Red Notice initiated by Japan has triggered a legal proceeding in Lebanon, and the day after his press conference Ghosn was summoned by the country’s Ministry of Justice. Prosecutors questioned him on the Japanese allegations as well as a separate issue: whether he committed a crime by visiting Israel as Renault’s CEO. Lebanon considers Israel an enemy, and it’s illegal for citizens to travel there, with violations punishable by a jail sentence—a reminder that Ghosn’s globalist values may not be fully compatible with those of his new home. And it will, for now, be his home: The government has formally barred him from leaving, taking possession of his French passport. In an interview in Beirut, Justice Minister Albert Sarhan insisted that Lebanon will carefully consider any requests from Japan and that it’s too early to say Ghosn won’t be extradited. But given the political and legal context, that outcome is highly unlikely.
Ghosn says he’s eager to clear his name, something his lawyer has suggested could occur through a trial in Lebanon—a country that ranked 138th in the most recent Corruption Perceptions Index published by Transparency International. At his press conference, Ghosn was more expansive, saying he would welcome being judged “anywhere where I think I can have a fair trial.” When he puts it that way, it’s a reminder that for everything he’s lost, he still has plenty. Among the remarkable things about Ghosn’s situation in Japan, where he stood a very real chance of becoming one of the few corporate leaders of his stature ever to be sent to prison, was the degree to which all his advantages—connections, money, access to the global media—seemed to count for nothing. That turned out to be only half right. Ghosn may not have been able to beat the system, but he didn’t need to. He had the resources to go around it. —With Greg Farrell, Zeke Faux, Kae Inoue, Alan Katz, Dana Khraiche, David Kocieniewski, Ania Nussbaum, Neil Weinberg, and David Voreacos
Carlos Ghosn Was Too Big Not to Fail in Japan By Ian Buruma
The fallen executive committed a cardinal, culturally unacceptable sin: hubris.
Carlos Ghosn, the French-Lebanese-Brazilian former C.E.O. of the Nissan and Renault motor companies, spent millions of dollars to avoid being tried in Japan for financial malfeasance. He jumped bail by paying a crack team of security experts to smuggle him out of the country in a private jet.
Mr. Ghosn justified his escape from Japanese justice by depicting himself as the victim of “naked bias.” The Japanese legal system is “rigged,” he has said, and as a foreigner he was subjected to “double standards.” His Japanese colleagues at Nissan had colluded with the prosecutors to oust him, he says, because they were afraid that Renault, a French company, would swallow up its Japanese counterpart. He likened his arrest to the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor.
These are serious, grandiose claims. It is not often that a single man, even if he is one of the world’s most powerful tycoons, likens himself to a country provoked into war.
The Japanese justice system is flawed, to be sure, but the Ghosn saga stands for more than an illustration of its failings. The rare appointment of a foreign C.E.O. at the head of a venerable Japanese company had seemed like a sign that things were changing in Japan. In fact, Mr. Ghosn was as much a victim of his own arrogance as of his failure to realize how little Japan had changed.
Japanese prosecutors place too much store in getting confessions. Their power to jail someone for extended periods without charge increases the chance that confessions are neither voluntary nor accurate. The conviction rate hovers at 99 percent, too high not to be fishy, especially considering that convictions are often based on confessions. Mr. Ghosn, who was used to being treated with exaggerated deference, was shocked to be locked up, interrogated for long hours and deprived of contact with his family. As he put it, “I was brutally taken from my world as I knew it.” Indeed.
Did he come in for particularly severe treatment because he was a foreigner in Japan? To some extent, perhaps. There were corporate tensions between Nissan and Renault, and by extension perhaps between Japan and France. Mr. Ghosn had rivals inside Nissan who might well have wanted to bring him down. But there are reasons to doubt Mr. Ghosn’s contention that Japanese xenophobia was the main reason for his fall from grace. There may be a more plausible explanation.
Mr. Ghosn was a highly unusual C.E.O. in Japan. Brought in to save Nissan from going under in 1999, he succeeded beyond expectation. Nissan’s turnaround made him a celebrity, lionized wherever he went. He even reached mythical status as a heroic figure in a Japanese manga, titled “The True Life of Carlos Ghosn.” The problem was that he began to behave like a comic-strip superhero. And that, in Japan, is unforgivable.
The Japanese like power to be disguised, hidden behind a thick veneer of modest manners, consultation with colleagues, opaque chains of command and diffuse centers of responsibility. It is often very hard to know who is really in charge in Japanese companies, or in government. Even under Japan’s quasi-fascist militarism in the 1940s, there was no leader who behaved like a dictator — not even Prime Minister Hideki Tojo, whom Americans liked to depict, quite falsely, as a Japanese Hitler, and certainly not Emperor Hirohito.
Powerful figures in corporate Japan or in politics may on occasion engage in worse corruption than the crimes Mr. Ghosn is accused of — discreetly behind closed doors. Lucrative positions and other financial rewards are exchanged for political favors, but such transactions are handled quietly between faceless men in dark suits, out of the public gaze.
Mr. Ghosn made the big mistake of being openly, flamboyantly, swaggeringly greedy, jetting around in private planes to grand homes all over the world and renting the Palace of Versailles for his wedding party. He also challenged Japanese corporate culture at Nissan by replacing the traditional system of privileging seniority with a more meritocratic one, where high achievement — including his own — would be richly rewarded with bonuses. Mr. Ghosn was far better paid than Japanese corporate bosses, and this alone marked him as an outsider.
I can recall at least two precedents that might put Mr. Ghosn’s downfall in perspective. One was the rise and fall of an unusually colorful Japanese businessman, Hiromasa Ezoe. An energetic figure from a modest social background, Mr. Ezoe started with an advertising company and jobs-information magazine in the 1960s. It grew into a business empire called Recruit. But despite his new wealth, Mr. Ezoe could never penetrate the intricate old-boys’ network of Japanese business and political elites. So he tried to bribe his way in, by offering politicians, government officials and executives all manner of sweet deals that were not exactly above board.
The Recruit scandal broke in 1989. Stories about Mr. Ezoe’s shady behavior started appearing in the press. The public prosecutors decided to act with customary zeal. Mr. Ezoe was arrested. Prime Minister Noboru Takeshita and members of the cabinet who had benefited from Mr. Ezoe’s largess were brought down with him. The problem was not so much the corruption itself, which was hardly unprecedented, but the fact that an outsider had attempted to crack the establishment by throwing around too much money, too brazenly. Mr. Ezoe had become too big for his boots.
Then there was the case of Kakuei Tanaka, another go-getter social outsider, who made his fortune in real estate in the murky postwar years when black marketeers and gangsters thrived. Mr. Tanaka rose quickly to the top of the ruling conservative Liberal Democratic Party and became prime minister in 1972. His path was greased by grand construction projects, driven less by necessity than by political expedience, and financial bribes. Like Mr. Ezoe, he tried to buy the establishment with openly flaunted wealth.
His rival in the party was his precise opposite: the smooth, wily, well-connected former bureaucrat Takeo Fukuda. In any event, Mr. Fukuda won the so-called Kaku-Fuku War. Mr. Tanaka’s downfall was sparked by allegations of shady land deals, some of them made in the name of his mistress, a former geisha. He had to resign.
Mr. Tanaka might well have been guilty as charged, as was Mr. Ezoe — and possibly as is Mr. Ghosn, although in the absence of a trial we might never know. But the main reason for Mr. Tanaka’s disgrace was political. The party establishment around Mr. Fukuda had been waiting for an opportunity to take him down. Mr. Tanaka had rocked too many boats, and he had spent too much money.
As a foreigner, Mr. Ghosn is even more of an outsider than Mr. Ezoe or Mr. Tanaka. But his sins are comparable to theirs: the hubris of money, made and spent ostentatiously, and challenging the way things are done. Traditionally, in cases of corporate misbehavior, Japanese executives will claim that they acted for the good of the company. Mr. Ghosn was accused by his former colleagues of lining his own pockets, which left him with few defenders.
His fall will have serious consequences. Mr. Ghosn was applauded by the Japanese, and by foreigners, who were hoping that Japan would become a more open, cosmopolitan society. The vindictiveness of Japan’s prosecutorial system and the conservatism of Japanese corporate culture — and Mr. Ghosn’s extraordinary escape from justice — will do much to slow that process down.
Ian Buruma, a professor at Bard College, is the author of “Inventing Japan: 1853-1964” and “The Wages of Guilt: Memories of War in Germany and Japan.” He is a contributing writer.
Carlos Ghosn donated three million euros to Lebanon’s hospitals, to the Pasteur Institute one million euros, and another million to a German laboratory. He also transformed his textile factory in southern Italy to make medical masks for free. This has been done in complete discretion has only...