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Carlos Ghosn’s Escape Began With a Ride on a Public Train

TOKYO — The first leg of Carlos Ghosn’s overnight trek from his Tokyo home to Beirut, before he reportedly climbed into a box to evade airport security, involved something much more prosaic: He got aboard an Osaka-bound bullet train, several Japanese media sources reported Monday.

Taking the trip on a public train would be another embarrassment for Japanese authorities, who on Monday promised to tighten airport baggage inspections and the rules governing the release of criminal suspects on bail.

It’s unclear if Mr. Ghosn, who is one of the most recognizable public figures in Japan, hid his appearance while on the bullet train, which has a maximum speed of about 177 miles per hour. The revelations came as authorities continued to investigate how the former auto executive eluded the authorities and flew to Lebanon last week.

Mr. Ghosn, who is facing charges of financial wrongdoing in Japan, fled to Beirut, where he has a home and faces no extradition to Japan.

Details of his trip, which began on Sunday, Dec. 29, are beginning to come to light. Mr. Ghosn left his home in central Tokyo by himself around 2:30 p.m. that Sunday, and walked about 900 yards to a hotel, where he met two men, according to NHK, which cited sources in the city prosecutor’s office and the Tokyo police.

The three then went to Tokyo’s Shinagawa railroad station, a major hub, and a little after 4:30 p.m. boarded a Shinkansen, or high-speed bullet train, for Osaka, about 340 miles away, the report said. In Osaka, they entered a hotel near the Kansai airport at about 8 p.m. A couple of hours later, the two men left the hotel with two large boxes; Mr. Ghosn was not in sight, the NHK report said. They boarded a corporate jet with the boxes, and flew to Istanbul.

Previous media reports have said that Mr. Ghosn evaded airport security measures by hiding in a box that was loaded on the plane.

From Istanbul, Mr. Ghosn reportedly got on a smaller plane, and arrived in Beirut later Monday.

At a news conference on Monday, Masako Mori, Japan’s justice minister, said the authorities were taking steps to bolster the scanning of luggage, though she declined to disclose details.

“Now, measures have been taken so that similar acts can’t be committed,” she said of the escape of Mr. Ghosn, who was on bail. Though her ministry is not responsible for baggage inspection, she said, different agencies are working to tighten control.

Ms. Mori also said the government would accelerate an existing review of how bail works in the country, including whether to require defendants to wear tracking wrist or ankle bracelets. Mr. Ghosn offered to wear one when he sought bail, but the court ultimately granted it without that requirement.

“We have been reviewing the current system,” Ms. Mori said. “We would like to swiftly advance the discussions on the matter, taking into account the recent escaping cases and the various opinions we have received.”

In leaving Japan, Mr. Ghosn forfeited 1.5 billion yen in bail, or about $13.9 million.

Mr. Ghosn, the former chief of the Nissan-Renault auto alliance, has long denied the allegations of financial wrongdoing and insisted he had been set up by Nissan executives who were worried that he would further merge the operations of the Japanese automaker and Renault of France.

After he vanished from Tokyo last week, he appeared in Lebanon, saying in a statement that he had been “held hostage by a rigged Japanese justice system.”

Japanese officials on Sunday defended the country’s justice system as fair and open, with plenty of opportunities for Mr. Ghosn to defend himself.

Ms. Mori continued the defense on Monday.

“We acknowledge that there are various criticisms of Japan’s criminal justice procedures, but every country has a different criminal justice system,” she said, adding, “It isn’t appropriate to simply focus on one part of the system when comparing it to other countries.”

The details of Mr. Ghosn’s escape are still emerging.

In Japan, local media outlets have reported that surveillance cameras showed him leaving his Tokyo rental home by himself on Dec. 29. According to media reports in Turkey, he boarded a private jet in Osaka and flew to Istanbul, then took a second plane to Beirut.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday, citing an anonymous source, that Mr. Ghosn was smuggled through Kansai International Airport in a type of box often used for concert equipment. It said the terminal for private jets at that airport was essentially empty, and that oversize luggage could not fit in the airport’s scanners.

A customs official at the airport, Akira Taniguchi, said that screening of luggage was done in two stages. In the first, a private security company using X-ray and other equipment checks whether there are items that are not allowed on board, likes guns or knives.

In the second stage, customs officials check whether the bags contain items that are not permitted to be brought in or taken out of Japan, like drugs and some foods. They use X-ray machines, metal detectors, drug detectors and dogs for that step.

Asked if Mr. Ghosn had managed to elude these measures, Mr. Taniguchi said, “We cannot comment on this.”

Mr. Ghosn was accompanied out of Japan by an American security consultant named Michael Taylor, a former Green Beret, The New York Times reported on Friday, citing a person familiar with the matter.

Mr. Taylor and another American were the only people listed as passengers on a manifest for the flight that carried Mr. Ghosn from Japan to Turkey, Turkish news outlets have reported.

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NYT > Business


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