Ghosn fled Japan over trial delay, block on contact with wife: Sources

Sources close to ousted Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn said he learnt at a recent court hearing that one of his two trials in Japan would be delayed until April 2021. PHOTO: AFP

BEIRUT/TOKYO (REUTERS) - Ousted Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn decided to flee Japan after learning that his trial had been delayed until April 2021 and also because he had not been allowed to speak to his wife, sources close to Ghosn said on Thursday (Jan 2).

The former auto executive has become an international fugitive after he revealed on Tuesday he had fled to Lebanon to escape what he called a "rigged" justice system.

Sources close to Ghosn said he learnt at a recent court hearing that one of his two trials in Japan would be delayed until April 2021. No firm date has been set for either trial but at least one was widely expected to start in April 2020.

"They said they needed another whole year to prepare for it... He was distressed about not being able to see or speak to his wife," one of the sources close to Ghosn said.

Under the terms of his bail, Ghosn was prevented from communicating with his wife, Carole, and had his use of the Internet and other communications restricted while confined to his house in Tokyo.

A request to see or speak to his wife over Christmas was denied, the sources said.

The sources also said Ghosn was unnerved by news that his daughter and son had been questioned by Japanese prosecutors in the United States in early December and was convinced authorities were looking to force a confession from him by putting pressure on his family.

No one was immediately available for comment at the office of Ghosn's lawyer, Mr Junichiro Hironaka, or at the French embassy in Tokyo, or at the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office.

Ghosn, 65, was first arrested in Tokyo in November 2018 and faces four charges for alleged financial crimes in Japan, including hiding income and enriching himself through payments to car dealerships in the Middle East. He denies the charges.

The businessman, who holds French, Lebanese and Brazilian citizenship, was smuggled out of Tokyo by a private security company, a plan that was in the works for three months and involved transit through Turkey, Reuters has reported.

Turkish police detained seven people, including four pilots, as part of an investigation into Ghosn's transit, a police spokeswoman said.

She said the other detainees were two airport ground staff and one cargo worker and all seven were expected to give statements before a court on Thursday.

Flight tracking data suggests Ghosn used two different planes to fly into Istanbul and then on to Lebanon.


Japanese public broadcaster NHK said on Thursday that Japanese authorities allowed Ghosn to carry a spare French passport in a locked case while out on bail, potentially shedding some light on how he managed to escape.

Prosecutors on Thursday raided the Tokyo residence of the former Nissan Motor Co Ltd chairman, NHK also reported.

Japanese authorities have not officially commented on Ghosn's disappearance. Government offices are shut this week for the New Year holiday.

Lebanon has no extradition agreement with Japan and Ghosn enjoys widespread support in the country of his childhood, where he holds extensive investments in banking and real estate.

Sources close to Ghosn have said he met Lebanese president Michel Aoun shortly after arriving in Beirut on Monday and was greeted warmly. A source at Mr Aoun's office has denied there was such a meeting.

Officials in Lebanon said Ghosn entered legally on a French passport. But one of Ghosn's Japanese lawyers has previously said the lawyers were still in possession of all three of his passports, under the terms of his bail.

Broadcaster NHK said Ghosn had been issued a spare French passport, citing unidentified sources, and carried it in the months before his departure.

NHK said his lawyers applied to have the terms of his bail changed so that he could carry a passport in a locked case.

The key to the locked case in which the spare passport was kept was held by his lawyers, NHK said.

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