Turkey detains pilots over Ghosn’s escape through Istanbul as Lebanon receives Interpol wanted notice

Carlos Ghosn

ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Turkish police detained seven people, including four pilots, on Thursday in an investigation into how ousted Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn transited through Istanbul en route to Lebanon after fleeing Japan, a police spokeswoman told Reuters.

She said the other detainees were two airport ground workers and one cargo worker and all seven were expected to give statements before a court on Thursday.

Media reports said Turkey’s interior ministry had begun an investigation into Ghosn’s transit. The former Nissan (7201.T) boss revealed on Tuesday he had fled to Beirut to escape what he called a “rigged” justice system.

People familiar with the matter told Reuters that Ghosn, one of the world’s best-known executives, had arrived in Beirut on a private jet from Istanbul on Monday.

Hurriyet news website, citing an interior ministry official, said Turkish border police were not notified about Ghosn’s arrival, and neither his entry nor exit were registered.

A plane carrying Ghosn arrived at 5:30 am (0230 GMT) Monday at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport, Hurriyet reported, adding that prosecutors ordered the arrests after widening their investigation.

Flight tracking data from that time suggests that Ghosn used two different planes to fly into Istanbul and then on to Lebanon.

Japanese authorities allowed Ghosn to carry a spare French passport in a locked case while out on bail, public broadcaster NHK said on Thursday, shedding some light on how he managed his escape to Lebanon.

The businessman, who holds French, Lebanese and Brazilian citizenship, was smuggled out of Tokyo by a private security company days ago, the culmination of a plan that was crafted over three months, Reuters has reported.

Ghosn was first arrested in Tokyo in November 2018 and faces four charges, including hiding income and enriching himself through payments to car dealerships in the Middle East. He denies the charges.

Lebanon’s justice minister said Thursday that Lebanon has received an international wanted notice from Interpol for Nissan’s ex-chair Carlos Ghosn.

Albert Serhan told The Associated Press in an interview that the Red Notice for the former automotive titan was received earlier Thursday by the prosecution.

Ghosn has skipped bail before a trial on financial misconduct charges and fled to Lebanon via Turkey. Authorities have said that he entered legally on a French passport.

Interpol’s so-called Red Notices are requests to law enforcement agencies worldwide that they locate and provisionally arrest a wanted fugitive.

Serhan said the Lebanese prosecution “will carry out its duties,” suggesting for the first time that Ghosn may be brought in for questioning.

But he said that Lebanon and Japan do not have an extradition treaty, ruling out the possibility that Beirut would hand Ghosn over to Japan

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s earlier story follows below.

Japanese prosecutors on Thursday raided the Tokyo home of former Nissan Chairman Carlos Ghosn after he skipped bail and fled to Lebanon before his trial on financial misconduct charges.

Tokyo prosecutors and police did not immediately comment. Japanese media showed investigators entering the home, which was Ghosn’s third residence in Tokyo since he was first arrested a year ago. Authorities have now searched each one.

Government offices in Japan are closed this week for the New Year’s holidays.

It is unclear how Ghosn avoided the tight surveillance he was under in Japan and showed up in Lebanon.

Ghosn said Tuesday in a statement that he left for Lebanon because he thought the Japanese judicial system was unjust, and he wanted to avoid “political persecution.”

He said he would talk to reporters next week.

Japan does not have an extradition treaty with Lebanon.

Lebanon has said Ghosn entered the country legally, and there was no reason to take action against him.

The Lebanese minister for presidential affairs, Selim Jreissati, told the An-Nahar newspaper that Ghosn entered legally at the airport with a French passport and Lebanese ID.

Ghosn’s lawyers in Japan said they had no knowledge of the escape and they had all his passports. Ghosn has French, Lebanese and Brazilian citizenship.

Japanese public broadcaster NHK TV, without identifying sources, reported Thursday that Ghosn had two French passports.

Earlier Japanese reports said there were no official records in Japan of Ghosn’s departure, but a private jet had left from a regional airport to Turkey.

Turkish state-run Anadolu Agency said Thursday that Turkish authorities had detained seven people as part of an investigation into how Ghosn fled to Lebanon via Istanbul.

The private DHA news agency reported that those detained are 4 pilots, a cargo company manager and two airport workers.

The Hurriyet newspaper said the plane carrying Ghosn landed at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport at 05:30 on Dec. 29. Ghosn was not registered upon landing and was smuggled on board another plane that left for Lebanon, the paper reported.

Ghosn, who was charged in Japan with under-reporting his future compensation and breach of trust, has repeatedly asserted his innocence, saying authorities trumped up charges to prevent a possible fuller merger between Nissan Motor Co. and alliance partner Renault SA.

His 1.5 billion yen ($14 million) bail that Ghosn posted on two separate instances to get out of detention is being revoked.