Japan ratchets up effort to prosecute helpers of Ghosn’s escape, including a former Green Beret.
It has been almost five months since embattled former Renault Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn escaped house arrest in Japan by hiding in a musical case smuggled aboard a chartered plane. The brazen and inventive multistep escape that involved planes, trains and automobiles came months before a planned trial in which Ghosn was expected to be charged with a number financial crimes in a Japanese court, charges he has denied while labeling his detention a politically motivated prosecution and having become a victim of Japan’s “hostage justice.”
Since Ghosn fled to Lebanon, a country without an extradition treaty with Japan, he has been presumed to be relatively safe there despite the issuance of an Interpol “red notice.” Just about the only way the former chairman could be detained is if he transited through an international airport or some other border crossing where he would have to present one of his passports.
While Ghosn remains out of the reach of Japanese justice for the moment, the same is not true for his accomplices, some of whom were reported earlier to be former special forces operators.
Two men believed to have helped Ghosn escape have now been arrested in the U.S., Reuters reports, and could face extradition to Japan.
One of the men is a 59-year-old former Green Beret and the other is his 27-year-old son, Reuters noted. U.S. authorities arrested the two men after the younger man booked a flight to Beirut through London, and they could now be extradited to Japan for their role in helping Ghosn.
“We are making preparations, including working to cooperate on a speedy extradition,” Chief Cabinet officer Yoshihide Suga told reporters, including those from Reuters.
This latest development continues the curious saga of Japan’s prosecution of Ghosn’s accomplices, being unable to get Ghosn himself out of Lebanon.
Earlier this month Turkey had aired an indictment against six airline employees, including four pilots, who had allegedly helped Ghosn escape to Lebanon via Turkey five months ago. Each of the four pilots could face up to an eight-year prison sentence, while flight attendants could face a softer sentence. The charges leveled against the pilots relate to smuggling a migrant and breaching immigration laws, a curious application of Turkey’s domestic laws to a unique situation that did not really involve a “migrant,” in the usual sense, remaining in Turkey.
It has not been lost on observers that Japan has applied diplomatic pressure to several countries, including direct negotiations by Japan’s justice minister, in an effort to prosecute Ghosn’s accomplices under its own laws and the laws of third countries as a way to pressure Ghosn to return to Japan, where his alleged crimes include underreporting his salary.
The amount of expense, including diplomatic efforts, to find and prosecute Ghosn’s accomplices is not likely to have eclipsed the effort expended to prosecute Ghosn himself, at least for now. But as several business observers have noted, Japan’s pursuit of Ghosn has begun to appear more and more like a political prosecution. And as the country tries to reach his accomplices around the world, the effort now risks appearing disproportionate to the scope of his alleged crimes.