Turkey Questions Pilots About Carlos Ghosn’s Escape From Japan


Authorities in Turkey on Thursday were questioning seven people, including four pilots, about the role they may have played helping Carlos Ghosn make his escape from Tokyo to Beirut, offering new clues to his mysterious cross-country flight.

Elsewhere, prosecutors raided Mr. Ghosn’s home in Tokyo, a Lebanese government minister said the public prosecutor had received a “red notice” from Interpol, and a French official said authorities there wouldn’t extradite Mr. Ghosn if he were to travel to the country.

Four days after Mr. Ghosn triumphantly announced his arrival in Beirut, law enforcement officials and authorities were left grappling with the legal implications of the former automotive executive’s stunning escape, whose details remain shrouded in mystery.

Mr. Ghosn, the former chief executive of Nissan and Renault, left Japan on Sunday to avoid trial on financial misconduct charges there, though his movements were supposed to be strictly limited while he was free on bail. He turned up in Lebanon, saying he had escaped the “rigged Japanese justice system.”

The Lebanese justice minister, Albert Serhan, said on Thursday that the public prosecutor had received a “red notice” from Interpol related to Mr. Ghosn’s case, according to the state-run National News Agency. The red notice is akin to a “wanted” poster, and not an arrest warrant, is issued for individuals wanted for prosecution or to serve a sentence. It is up to each individual country to decide how to respond.

Mr. Ghosn, who has not appeared in public since he announced he was in Lebanon, issued a statement Thursday that seemed aimed to protect his family from any legal jeopardy.

“There has been speculation in the media that my wife Carole, and other members of my family played a role in my departure from Japan,” the statement said. “All such speculation is inaccurate and false. I alone arranged for my departure. My family had no role whatsoever.”

Hours earlier, a French government minister said authorities there would not extradite Mr. Ghosn if he arrived there, “because France never extradites its nationals.”

“That’s a rule of the game,” junior economy minister Agnès Pannier-Runacher told the news channel BFM.

In Turkey, the authorities detained seven people suspected of helping Mr. Ghosn escape, according to news outlets there. He reportedly left Japan late Sunday aboard a business jet from Osaka to Istanbul Ataturk Airport, where he quickly switched to another plane and flew to Beirut.

Much about his cinematic flight remains unknown, including how he was able to escape surveillance in Japan, how he arranged his flights to Lebanon, and whether he was helped by any other countries. The French foreign ministry declined to comment on allegations that Mr. Ghosn had used a French passport to leave Japan.

Mr. Ghosn, who has been charged in Japan with an array of financial crimes, was born in Brazil to a Lebanese family, grew up mostly in Lebanon and has lived most of his adult life in France. He has passports from all three countries, though his lawyers in Japan have said that they held the documents.

Turkish news organizations, including the state-run Anadolu news agency, reported that the planes that delivered Mr. Ghosn to Istanbul and Beirut were operated by MNG Jet, a Turkish company that offers chartered flights on business aircraft. Flight tracking websites confirm MNG flights matching Mr. Ghosn’s reported path.

Four of the seven people arrested in Turkey were pilots employed by a private aviation company, two were employees of a company that provides ground services to aircraft, and one was a manager of a private cargo company, according to the Turkish reports.

An official at Havas, a ground services company that operates at Istanbul Ataturk Airport, confirmed that two of its employees were in custody for questioning in the case but said that they were expected to be released later in the day. A person who answered the phone at MNG said no one was available to comment.

Elian Peltier

2020-01-02 11:05:33

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