Carlos Ghosn has for the first time given details about his daring escape from Japan while he was awaiting trial on charges of financial misconduct.
In an interview with the BBC, the former Nissan chairman confirmed reports that he was smuggled out of Japan while out on bail in December 2019 inside a box used to store musical equipment, before arriving in Lebanon via Turkey.
In previous public comments, Ghosn, who holds Brazilian, French and Lebanese passports, had refused to explain how he escaped.
“The plane was scheduled to take off at 11pm,” Ghosn said, recalling the time he spent inside the box at an airport in western Japan waiting to board a private jet and flee a justice system he has claimed would have wrongly found him guilty of concealing income and misusing company funds.
“The 30 minutes waiting in the box on the plane, waiting for it to take off, was probably the longest wait I’ve ever experienced in my life,” he said. In all, he said, he was concealed inside the box for about an hour and a half, adding that it felt like “one year and a half”.
The fugitive also spoke of the elation he felt when he landed in his native Lebanon, which does not have an extradition treaty with Japan. “The thrill was that finally, I’m going to be able to tell the story,” he said.
Ghosn’s criticism of his treatment in Japan following his dramatic arrest in late 2018 triggered unprecedented scrutiny of the country’s criminal justice system, where prosecutors can detain suspects for long periods and more than 99% of criminal cases end with guilty verdicts.
“The plan was I could not show my face so I have to be hidden somewhere,” he said of the day of his escape. “And the only way I could be hidden [was] to be in a box or be in a luggage so nobody could see me, nobody could recognise me and the plan could work.”
Ghosn has faced criticism for choosing not to defend himself in court, while one of his former colleagues stands trial in Japan along with two men accused of masterminding his flight from justice.
Greg Kelly, a former Nissan executive who was close to Ghosn, faces a prison sentence if he is found guilty of helping his former boss underreport his income by tens of millions of dollars.
Kelly has denied the charges, and a verdict is expected later this year.
Michael and Peter Taylor, the American father and son who transported Ghosn from a hotel to the airport on the day of his escape, face almost three years in prison for helping him escape.
The Taylors, who were extradited from the US earlier this year, apologised to the Japanese authorities for their alleged role in Ghosn’s escape.
“I’m remorseful, and I’m sorry,” Michael Taylor told a court in Tokyo earlier this month. His son said: “I apologise to the people of Japan, and I deeply regret my action.”