Ex-Nissan boss who skipped trial Japan 'had second French passport'

<i>Image: ERIC PIERMONT / AFP</i>
<i>Image: ERIC PIERMONT / AFP</i>

Tokyo - Former Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn, who fled to Lebanon to avoid a Japanese trial, had a second French passport, a source said Thursday, as authorities raided his Tokyo residence as part of a probe into the embarrassing security lapse.

Ghosn, who faced multiple charges of financial misconduct that he denies, won bail in April but with strict conditions -- including a ban on overseas travel.

His lead lawyer Junichiro Hironaka has said lawyers hold three passports belonging to the international tycoon, who has French, Brazilian and Lebanese nationality.

But the court had allowed him to keep a second French passport as he needed one to travel inside Japan, a source close to the matter told AFP.

"He had to keep this passport" to prove his short-stay status, the source said, adding: "There was permission from the court."

He was allowed this French passport so long as it was kept in a locked case with the code held by his lawyers, the source said.

There is no emigration data showing Ghosn's departure from Japan but he entered Lebanon on a French passport, public broadcaster NHK said.

It is still not clear how the high-profile fugitive managed to give authorities the slip, but he is thought to have taken a private jet from Kansai Airport in western Japan.

A jet took off on December 29 around 11:00 pm local time for Istanbul and it is believed Ghosn headed from there to Beirut.

Residence raided 

Prosecutors, meanwhile, raided his former Tokyo residence Thursday as part of an initial investigation into the daring escape.

Television footage showed several officers in dark suits entering the property.

Authorities are expected to analyse security camera footage from his residence and other places they suspect Ghosn travelled to before he fled, NHK said.

Police suspect "several" people accompanied him to help him escape "in an unlawful manner," it added.

The Japanese government has yet to issue any official statement on the case.

When his defence lawyers were arguing for bail, prosecutors claimed he was a flight risk with powerful connections, but Ghosn himself said he wanted to be tried to prove his innocence.

One of his lawyers also said at the time that he was such a famous face he had no chance of slipping away undetected.

Several countries allow people to have two passports of the same nationality -- for example if they are frequent travellers constantly needing visas, or visit nations in conflict with each other.

The Japanese government is likely to ask Lebanon to extradite Ghosn through diplomatic channels, but chances of his handover appear slim as Beiruit has no extradition accord with Tokyo.

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
Subscribe to News24
Lockdown For
Voting Booth
Who do you feel was at fault for Verstappen and Hamilton's Italian GP crash?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
25% - 969 votes
41% - 1607 votes
They were both at fault
34% - 1336 votes