Back in the news this week: former Renault, Mitsubishi and, most significantly, Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn, who has made himself heard with an extraordinary press conference in Lebanon. His arrival in Beirut in the new year was as much of a surprise to Japanese authorities as the rest of us, because they thought he was still under house arrest in Tokyo.
To recap: Ghosn was the chairman of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance, a set of companies that had enjoyed unprecedented success, before his arrest in November 2018; the Japanese authorities say for financial misconduct, Ghosn says because of collusion between Nissan executives and prosecutors opposed to his plans for the companies.
His incarceration, he claims, began with imprisonment and solitary confinement, limited to a cell with no windows for 23 and a half hours a day and to two showers a week – normal for a student but not for Ghosn – and culminated under strict bail conditions with no trial date set. He said his options were escape or “die in Japan” and opted for the former.
Having ‘done an Assange’, only with the good sense to present himself to a country largely pleased to see him, rather than an initially tolerant embassy where his skateboarding in the corridors and the smell of his cat’s litter tray would soon annoy his hosts, tales of the escapade started to become clearer.
It was initially reported that Ghosn escaped in a musical instrument case brought by a Gregorian band visiting his house – which would have been odd, given that Gregorian bands are primarily noted for chanting. Later it transpired that Ghosn instead took the infinitely more fiendish plan of opening his back door and casually walking out of it, because the front was under heavier surveillance.
Then, using Japan’s famed aversion to germs, he blended in by putting on a mask and strolled to a nearby hotel.
He might have left that hotel in the trunk or climbed into it later still, at the airport from where a private charter jet definitely took him to Turkey and then onto Lebanon. Most of those who should know if a fugitive is hiding in a case in their hotel, airport or aircraft are now shrugging their shoulders and saying they knew absolutely nothing about it, guv.