Jets used illegally to help Ghosn escape: Firm

Two people suspected of helping Carlos Ghosn escape being escorted by Turkish police as they left a police station in Istanbul yesterday.
Two people suspected of helping Carlos Ghosn escape being escorted by Turkish police as they left a police station in Istanbul yesterday.PHOTO: REUTERS

One employee admits fabricating records; Turkish police detain 7, including 4 pilots

BEIRUT • The private jets that transported fugitive Carlos Ghosn from Japan to Lebanon were deployed illegally using falsified records that did not mention the former Nissan Motor executive as a passenger, the aircraft's operator said.

MNG Jet Havacilik said in a statement that it filed a criminal complaint on Wednesday about what it said amounted to "the illegal use of its jet charter services".

One employee, who is being investigated by the authorities, has admitted to fabricating records and acted alone, MNG said.

Ghosn's audacious escape from house arrest has remained shrouded in mystery, giving rise to speculation on just how he managed to slip from the grip of Japan's legal system.

Japanese media reported yesterday that surveillance footage shows Ghosn left the house alone on the day of his disappearance but did not return.

That contrasts with speculation that he was smuggled from the premises inside a large musical case brought in earlier by a band.

He was eventually transferred between two jets inside a box, a Turkish official said, asking not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the matter.

The Turkish authorities have detained seven people, including four pilots, as part of a probe into the private jet flights that carried Ghosn.

MNG Jet confirmed that it leased a pair of aircraft to two different clients last month, with one to fly from Dubai to Osaka and then to Istanbul, and the other scheduled from Istanbul to Beirut.

Ghosn, once Japan's best-paid corporate executive, was arrested in November 2018 and faced trial for alleged financial crimes, which he has consistently denied. He was under house arrest in Japan after months of prison detention and skipped bail on Dec 30.

"The two leases were seemingly not connected to each other," Mr Cem Sasmaz, general manager of MNG Jet, said on the company's website yesterday.

"The name of Mr Ghosn did not appear in the official documentation of any of the flights. The jets did not belong to but were operated by MNG Jet."

Ghosn, once Japan's best-paid corporate executive, was arrested in November 2018 and faced trial for alleged financial crimes, which he has consistently denied.

He was under house arrest in Japan after months of prison detention and skipped bail on Dec 30.

He was flown to Istanbul this week and then to the capital of Lebanon, where he has citizenship, protecting him from extradition back to Japan.

"I have not fled justice - I have escaped injustice and political persecution," said Ghosn in a Dec 31 statement.

He plans to give a press conference next week in Beirut to provide his version of events.

The Lebanese authorities have already stressed that Ghosn - who also holds French and Brazilian nationalities - had entered the country legally and that Beirut had no extradition agreement with Japan.

An official, speaking to Agence France-Presse on condition of anonymity, said a summons was expected to be handed to Ghosn next week, as a result of Interpol issuing a "red notice" against him.

An Interpol red notice is a request to law enforcement across the world to provisionally arrest a person pending extradition, surrender or similar legal action. It is not an arrest warrant.

"The Lebanese judiciary is obliged to hear him. But it can still decide whether to arrest him or let him remain free," the official said, adding that Ghosn could be heard next Tuesday or Wednesday.

Ghosn, who was born in Brazil, is well connected in Lebanon, where he owns stakes in several major business ventures and firms.

BLOOMBERG, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 04, 2020, with the headline 'Jets used illegally to help Ghosn escape: Firm'. Print Edition | Subscribe