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Businessman fled Japan in ‘musical instrument case’ while awaiting trial

The former Nissan chairman who fled house arrest in Japan escaped the country in a musical instrument case, according to reports in Lebanon.

Carlos Ghosn, who is reported to have arrived in the Middle Eastern country by private plane, was awaiting trial on charges of financial misconduct in Japan before his departure.

Ghosn’s wife helped plan the escape which was carried out by a paramilitary-style group, according to the Lebanese news channel MTV.

The channel reports the members disguised themselves as a music band who were due to perform for a Gregorian-style dinner at Ghosn’s home in Japan.

The former Nissan chairman is said to have left the premises in a box intended for transporting musical instruments, before leaving Japan from a nearby airport.

Ghosn is reported to have arrived in Beirut in Lebanon on a private plane from Turkey, and has defied an overseas travel ban by leaving Japan while awaiting trial.

He is reported to have entered Lebanon under an assumed name.

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The millionaire has said he is not evading justice, but had escaped “injustice and political persecution” under a “rigged” justice system.

The 65-year-old’s abrupt departure is likely to raise questions about how he managed to skip the country.

Ghosn, who holds French, Brazilian and Lebanese citizenship, had been under surveillance while out on bail and had surrendered his passports.

Carlos Ghosn, Chairman and CEO of the Renault-Nissan Alliance, and his wife Carole pose at the Cannes film festival 26/5/2017
Image: Ghosn was told he could not speak to his wife Carole without court permission

In a statement, Ghosn said: “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, in flagrant disregard of Japan’s legal obligations under international law and treaties it is bound to uphold.

“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.”

Japan does not have an extradition treaty with Lebanon, and it is unclear what steps authorities might take to seek his return.

His departure took prosecutors and his own defence team by surprise.

 Japanese lawyer for former auto tycoon Carlos Ghosn, Junichiro Hironaka
Image: Ghosn’s lawyer Junichiro Hironaka has condemned his client’s ‘inexcusable behaviour’

Ghosn’s lawyer Junichiro Hironaka has condemned his client’s “inexcusable behaviour”.

Ghosn, who also presided over an alliance between the Japan’s Nissan and France’s Renault, is accused of understating his salary while leading the firm, transferring personal financial losses to his employer and diverting Nissan money to enrich himself.

In April, he lashed out at ex-colleagues, accusing them in a video of backstabbing and conspiring against him.

Ghosn claimed some “selfish” executives had “really played a very dirty game” and insisted he was innocent of all charges.

He has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing – accusing Japanese authorities of trumping up charges to prevent a potential merger between Nissan and Renault.

Arrested in November 2018, Ghosn was expected to face trial this coming April.

The charges he faces carry a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison.

Born in Brazil, Ghosn is of Lebanese heritage and grew up in Beirut.

He has retained close ties to the country.

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