Turkey charges 7 over ex-Nissan boss’s escape to Lebanon

Former Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn has been living in Lebanon since escaping house arrest in Japan in late December.

al-monitor Former Nissan Chairman Carlos Ghosn and his wife, Carole, talk during an interview with Reuters in Beirut, Lebanon, Jan. 14, 2020.  Photo by REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir.

May 8, 2020

Prosecutors in Istanbul charged seven people today over their alleged involvement in a former auto executive-turned-fugitive’s daring escape from Japan.

Four pilots and an airline official are accused of illegally smuggling a migrant, which can carry a sentence of up to eight years in prison, Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency reported. Two flight attendants are also charged with failing to report a crime. 

Carlos Ghosn, a former chairman of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi automaker alliance, stands accused of financial misconduct in Japan, which he denies. Japanese authorities allege he underreported his income by tens of millions of dollars when he served as head of Nissan, and used company funds for his personal use. 

After his arrest in 2018, Ghosn spent months in a Japanese prison before he was released on a $14 million bail. His trial in Japan was scheduled for April. 

Exactly how he managed to escape house arrest and flee to Beirut is unclear, although Ghosn’s wife has denied reports that he evaded 24-hour surveillance while concealed in a musical instrument case. 

Turkish prosecutors allege he first flew from Osaka, Japan, to Istanbul before getting onto a Beirut-bound charter plane in December. 

Shortly afterward, the Turkish company MNG Jet said two of its planes were used illegally in Ghosn’s escape and that an employee falsified records to exclude Ghosn’s name from flight manifests. The seven suspects were detained Jan. 2. 

Once he turned up in Lebanon, Ghosn issued a statement saying he had “escaped injustice and political persecution.” Ghosn is a citizen of Lebanon, which doesn’t have an extradition treaty with Japan.

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