British ex-serviceman linked to Carlos Ghosn's escape from Japan: FT

A file photo taken on May 12, 2016, showing Carlos Ghosn speaking at a press conference in Yokohama. PHOTO: AP

SYDNEY (BLOOMBERG, AFP) - Carlos Ghosn's escape from Japan to Lebanon has drawn in a British former military man who found wealth in post-war Iraq providing aviation and fuel services, the Financial Times (FT) reported on Tuesday (Jan 7).

A US$175,000 (S$235,000) invoice for the private jet that flew the former Nissan Motor executive from Osaka to Istanbul was paid on Dec 26 by Al-Nitaq al-Akhdhar for General Trade Ltd, a company linked to former serviceman Mike Douglas, the newspaper said. It did not state where it got the information.

Two of the private security contractors who travelled with Ghosn on his journey out of Japan, Mr Mike Taylor and Mr George Zayek, had the same background as Mr Douglas, working as a US military contractor in Iraq, the FT report said.

Mr Douglas, chief executive officer of Dubai-based SKA International, told the newspaper that any payment made was for logistics or cargo business, and not to charter any aircraft.

"Any payment we've made was for other logistics, cargo business, but we didn't charter any aircraft," he was quoted telling FT. "If anyone charters an aircraft you sign a charter agreement. And we haven't chartered any aircraft so we're not involved in it."

"So as far as I'm concerned, we're not involved," the FT quoted him as saying.

According to SKA's website, its operations in Iraq include a wide range of fuel distribution and fuel supply chain management, aviation services, ground logistics, life support construction and operations, and security services.

It said it had recently entered into a long term contract with the Iraq Ministry of Oil to operate the three major jetties at the Khor Al Zhubair port in Basra, Iraq.

According to the FT report, the charter agreement was signed by someone using the first name "Ross", although the surname was illegible.

The company's name on the agreement was not filled up, but it had been addressed to the Dubai-based Al-Nitaq al-Akhdhar, the report said, citing two people familiar with the matter.

A further sum of US$175,000 owed to MNG Jet, the Turkish charter firm that supplied planes for Ghosn, still hasn't been paid, the newspaper said, citing people familiar with the matter.

While Mr Douglas acknowledged that his firms "have (cargo) business with MNG", it said was not involved in Ghosn's escape.

MNG had filed a complaint last Friday alleging its aircraft were used illegally and said one employee admitted to falsifying the flight manifest to keep Ghosn off the passenger list.

The FT report said the escape was estimated to have cost Ghosn about US$20 million in expenses and forfeited bail money.

Ghosn, who faced trial on financial misconduct charges that he denies, fled Japan on Dec 29 for Lebanon, in an elaborate and apparently carefully planned escape.

Citing sources close to the investigation, public broadcaster NHK said Monday that Ghosn left his residence by himself on the afternoon of Dec 29 and met two men at a Tokyo hotel.

The three then boarded a Shinkansen bullet train together from Tokyo's Shinagawa station to a station in western Osaka, arriving around 7.30pm.

The trio then checked in at a hotel near Kansai Airport, but only the two men accompanying Ghosn were caught on security camera leaving the hotel later in the evening, NHK said.

They were carrying "two big boxes" which were not checked by customs staff at the airport, the report added.

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