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Ghosn was spirited away on Turkish jet after video showed him leaving house in Japan, reports say

Renault CEO Carlos Ghosn speaks during a visit of French President Emmanuel Macron inside the French
Carlos Ghosn inside a Renault factory in France in 2018.
(Francois Mori / Associated Press)

A Turkish private jet operator admitted it helped Carlos Ghosn stage his daring escape from Japan but blamed a rogue employee for leasing two planes to the former Nissan chairman.

MNG Jet, a subsidiary of a major Turkish conglomerate, said that it had filed a criminal complaint against its own employees for “illegal use of its jet charter services in relation to Carlos Ghosn’s escape from Japan.”

The company’s chief executive, Can Sasmaz, said that one of MNG Jet’s employees had admitted falsifying passenger records. “He confirmed that he acted in his individual capacity, without the knowledge or the authorization of the management of MNG Jet,” Sasmaz said in a statement published on Friday.

Carlos Ghosn’s stunning escape from Japan makes him one of the most famous white-collar fugitives in recent years.

Japanese prosecutors on Thursday raided the house occupied by the former car maker executive in Tokyo. The raid was the first stage of an investigation that is expected to prove highly embarrassing to Japanese prosecutors who had been in charge of keeping watch on a man they had repeatedly warned the courts was a flight risk.

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On Friday, Japan’s state broadcaster NHK cited sources close to the investigation who said that video recorded by cameras mounted outside the front door of Ghosn’s rented house in Tokyo had shown him leaving the house alone shortly before his escape. The cameras did not record him ever returning and investigators are now combing the video of other cameras in nearby streets in an effort to glean more clues on how he made it from central Tokyo to the airport he left from in a private jet.

The Washington Post reported the surveillance video of the house was not monitored in real time, and that recordings were handed over to authorities once a month, citing a post on the website of one of Ghosn’s lawyers, Takashi Takano. The newspaper also reported that Ghosn entered Lebanon on a spare French passport that he was allowed to keep at his home in a locked box, with his lawyers having the keys.

Turkey detained seven people Thursday after it emerged that Ghosn had briefly touched down in Istanbul as he fled a looming trial in Tokyo on charges of financial misconduct — accusations he has consistently denied.

Those taken in for police questioning included a manager at MNG Jet and four pilots, Turkish media reported.

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Publicly available flight data show that a jet traveling from Osaka’s Kansai airport landed at Istanbul’s Ataturk airport on Sunday at 5:26 a.m. Shortly afterward, a separate plane departed for Lebanon — the homeland of Ghosn’s grandparents.

The chairman of MNG Holdings, Mehmet Nazif Gunal, was initially reported to have denied that MNG Jet planes had been used in the escape. According to a report on the website of TV 100, later taken down, Gunal told the news station on New Year’s Day that a jet traveling from Osaka to Istanbul was carrying two American tourists who had traveled to Osaka for a concert.

On Friday, however, MNG Jet said that it had launched an internal investigation after learning through the media that the planes were “benefiting Ghosn and not the officially declared passengers.” That led to the company filing a criminal complaint.

MNG Jet said that the two aircraft — which records identify as a Bombardier Global Express and a Bombardier Challenger 300 — did not belong to MNG Jet but were operated by the company.

It said that the two jets were seemingly leased to two separate clients, adding: “The two leases were seemingly not connected to each other. The name of Ghosn did not appear in the official documentation of any of the flights.”

It added: “MNG Jet is proactively cooperating with the authorities and hopes that the people who illegally used and/or facilitated the use of the services of the company will be duly prosecuted.”

The company’s admission fills in a missing piece of the puzzle in Ghosn’s bold escape, which had been planned with the help of private security operatives since October, according to people familiar with the situation.

© The Financial Times Ltd. 2019. All Rights Reserved. FT and Financial Times are trademarks of the Financial Times Ltd. Not to be redistributed, copied or modified in any way.


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