Carlos Ghosn’s audacious flight to Lebanon to avoid standing trial in Japan reads like something out of a spy novel.

The 65-year-old former Nissan Motor Co. chairman apparently evaded detection while utilizing taxis, a bullet train and dolly to travel to Kansai International Airport.

There, he reportedly took advantage of a security loophole for private jets and was smuggled aboard in a large case for acoustic equipment.

Ghosn left his residence in Tokyo’s Minato Ward at around 2:30 p.m. on Dec. 29, according to sources.

He was alone, wearing a cap and face mask. On foot and by taxi, he went to a hotel in the Roppongi district, where he joined two men who are U.S. citizens who arrived later.

The trio took a taxi to Shinagawa Station. Then, they boarded a Shinkansen that departed at around 5 p.m. for Shin-Osaka Station.

Between 8 p.m. and 8:59 p.m., they arrived by taxi at a hotel near Kansai International Airport.

Later, Ghosn's two companions appeared pushing two dollies, each holding a large case. The duo loaded the cases in a minivan-type taxi and arrived at the airport at around 10 p.m.

After 11 p.m., a private jet took off from Kansai Airport for Istanbul. The two men went through a pre-flight departure check, but no record of Ghosn’s departure has been found, sources said.

Prosecutors at the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office and others believe Ghosn was hiding in one of the cases that was placed aboard the private jet. He arrived in Lebanon by way of Istanbul on Dec. 30.

On Dec. 31, Ghosn released a statement from Lebanon saying that he fled from Japan to escape "injustice and political persecution."

The embattled former auto executive had been released on bail in spring last year and was waiting to stand trial on charges of financial misconduct. As part of the conditions of his 1.5 billion yen ($13.8 million) bail, Ghosn was required to remain in Japan.


The two accomplices entered Japan prior to Ghosn’s escape. They brought two cases to a room at the hotel near Kansai Airport. Then they took a bullet train to travel to the hotel in Roppongi.

Ghosn has not been seen since he entered the hotel near Kansai Airport with the men, sources said.

Prosecutors are investigating the two men’s involvement and looking into if others aided Ghosn’s escape.

Tokyo prosecutors, with the assistance of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department, have analyzed security camera footage and other sources to unravel the trail that Ghosn took from his Tokyo residence to embarkation.

Authorities have searched Ghosn's residence on suspicion of violation of the Immigration Control Law and analyzed confiscated materials. They have also requested that Ghosn’s lawyers submit his cellphone records and a list of people he met, among other items.

Ghosn has been placed on an international wanted list for the charges, including aggravated breach of trust, by the International Criminal Police Organization (ICPO).


The Wall Street Journal reported that Ghosn hid in one of the two cases loaded on the private jet. The case is usually used to store acoustic equipment. The other case placed aboard the aircraft contained speakers.

Aviation officials point out that there are relaxed security checks for private jets, which would make it easier for someone to slip through undetected.

Ghosn and his co-conspirators apparently used the Premium Gate Tamayura, reserved for private business jets, in Terminal 2 at Kansai Airport. The gate is open 24 hours with a dedicated security checkpoint and CIQ (customs, immigration and quarantine) section.

About 800 private jets land and take off at the airport annually. Passengers for about half these private jets use the gate, sources said.

The gate is equipped with a dedicated doorway, separated from a doorway for general passengers, which allows large automobiles to park alongside.

“Terminal 2 is dedicated to low-cost carriers and there are hardly any arrivals and departures late at night,” said a person related to an airline company. “It must have been an opportune time to avoid being noticed.”

A case large enough to transport a person was bundled onto the private jet that was allegedly used for Ghosn’s escape. The baggage did not pass through an X-ray machine in the security check and custom inspection process, sources said.

Passengers on private jets are not required to go through security and body checks using an X-ray machine, which are required for those boarding aircraft operated by commercial airlines.

Security checks are conducted to prevent passengers from bringing dangerous objects aboard aircraft such as knives and explosives.

Private jets typically transport passengers who are acquainted with one another, such as friends and family, and are less likely to be hijacked or targeted by terrorists. Whether to conduct security checks of passengers is left to the pilot’s discretion.

The transport ministry says there are only four airports in Japan that allow pilots and aircraft operators to forgo the security check process: Haneda, Narita, Kansai and Chubu Centrair International Airport.

All are equipped with a dedicated facility for private jets.

However, after the security check, passengers on private jets, like passengers on commercial airlines, are required to go through the CIQ check.


The Finance Ministry, which oversees customs that guards against smuggling, has reiterated that officials must “never omit” checks on arrivals and departures for private jets.

Regarding baggage inspections for private jets, ministry officials said that “inspectors do not open baggage every time” and refused to comment on the criteria for opening baggage.

According to a person tied to an operation support system company who has used the Tamayura Gate multiple times, a departure security check is conducted concurrently with CIQ procedures in the same location. That check is done in the presence of an operation support system staffer.

First, the pilot decides whether to conduct a security check.

However, “they don’t (conduct a security check) 90 percent of the time,” the person said.

Next, custom officials check baggage according to a list submitted by passengers.

Officials rarely ask to check the contents.

“I have never been asked to show what’s inside the baggage,” the person said. “To be honest, I think it’s looser than general security check procedures.”

Lastly, immigration officials handle regular embarkation procedures.

The process is completed in one to two minutes if everything proceeds smoothly.

But the person has never checked baggage as large as one that can hide an individual.

“If the baggage is that big, then I would expect customs officials to be suspicious and conduct an inspection.”

(This article was written by Atsushi Kawada, Shingo Tsuru and Shun Niekawa.)