TOKYO: Former Nissan Chairman Carlos Ghosn was packed into a case typically used for concert audio equipment, and was sneaked onto a private jet at an airport in Osaka, Japan, late Sunday heading to Istanbul as a “cargo,” Nikkei English News reported quoting informed sources.
This escape was a backup plan for Ghosn, who decided to execute it following a pre-trial hearing on Christmas Day.
Nikkei added that Ghosn arranged his escape on his own, but he was accompanied on his flight from Osaka to Istanbul by an expert in the art of clandestine getaways: Michael Taylor, a former Green Beret well-known in the small, tight world of private security contractors.
Taylor, who is married to a Lebanese woman, didn’t accompany Ghosn on the flight to Lebanon, where the private contractor has close ties.
The other accomplice traveling with Taylor was identified as George Antoine Zayek, according to some sources. George Zayek has served as a security employee at companies owned by or linked to Taylor, according to online profiles posted to job-networking websites.
The report said the escape plan was under way by Dec. 28 in Dubai where Taylor and the man identified as Zayek boarded a Bombardier Global Express private jet bound for Japan. Dubai was also where two large black cases were loaded for the red-eye flight. The plane arrived at Osaka’s busiest airport at 10:16 a.m. local time Sunday, according to flight records, Nikkei reported.
The two men made their way through Istanbul’s new airport and took a commercial flight from Istanbul to Beirut, passing through Turkish passport checks on arrival and departure, the people familiar with the Turkish probe said.
Japanese authorities disclosed yesterday that surveillance footage showed Ghosn leaving his Tokyo house alone at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, less than nine hours before his plane left Japan, wearing a hat and a surgical-style mask.
Nikkei reported that it was a mystery how Ghosn traveled more than 300 miles from Tokyo to Osaka.
Kansai International airport officials said luggage for private planes goes through the same inspection as passengers’ luggage for regular commercial jets. However, VIPs were sometimes exempted from such checks.
The container used to sneak Ghosn aboard had holes drilled at the bottom to ensure he could breathe, and also had wheels, making it easier to move around.
“Inside a box, Ghosn was mere cargo transiting through Istanbul,” Nikkei quoted a Turkish airport staff. “The minute he stepped out of it, he became a possible illegal alien. He should have remained in the box all the way to Beirut.”
Sources reported that when Ghosn arrived in Beirut, he and his wife, Carole Ghosn, celebrated New Year’s Eve at the house of a friend. That night, Ghosn’s wife told the Journal that the couple was “so happy” and described being reunited with her husband as the “best gift of my life.”
Ghosn is staying in a mansion in Beirut that Nissan bought and renovated for his use when he worked for the company, according to a source. Nissan has been trying to evict the Ghosns from the house since shortly after the auto executive’s arrest in late 2018.
The ex-chairman has been busy preparing for a press conference scheduled to be held late next week. During this time, Ghosn is unlikely to address how he managed to escape Japan, according to sources.