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I did it alone: Former Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn on escape from Japan

PARIS: Carlos Ghosn claimed on Thursday he organised his dramatic escape from bail in Japan alone as the disgraced auto tycoon enjoyed his first days of freedom in Beirut despite an Interpol arrest notice. The exact circumstances of the former Renault-Nissan boss’s escape from a case he said was “rigged” were unclear but media reports described a plot that had all the trappings of a spy novel.

Ghosn denied through the Paris-based agency handling his PR that his family had anything to do with his escape. “The media reports saying my wife Carole and other family members played a role in my departure from Japan are falsehoods. I alone organised my departure,” he said.

Turkey said seven people had been detained for questioning, including four pilots, over how the wanted tycoon was able to transit through Istanbul. Ghosn, who had been under house arrest in Tokyo since April, was believed to be holed up his central Beirut residence, where visitors filed in and out under the scrutiny of TV cameras.

His surprise return to Lebanon just before New Year’s Eve raised fresh questions over his judicial status and marked the latest twist in a saga that has rocked the automotive and business world for more than a year.

Lebanon’s state news agency quoted Justice Minister Albert Sarhan as announcing that “the public prosecutor has received what is known as a red notice from Interpol in the Carlos Ghosn case”. An Interpol red notice is a request for a provisional arrest, pending extradition or prosecution, but it is not a warrant.

A Lebanese judicial source has already told AFP however that Lebanon and Japan do not have an extradition agreement under which Ghosn – who holds Lebanese, French and Brazilian nationalities – could be sent back to Tokyo.

Ghosn stands accused in Japan of deferring part of his salary until after his retirement and concealing this from shareholders, as well as syphoning off millions in Nissan cash for his own purposes. His escape caused deep embarrassment in Japan, where prosecutors launched an investigation into the security lapse and on Thursday searched his residence.

Japanese broadcaster NHK said that authorities are expected to analyse security camera footage from his residence and other places they suspect Ghosn travelled to before he fled. According to Japan’s Kyodo news agency, Ghosn was smuggled out with the help of two private security operatives who pretended to be part of a music band for a Christmas party at his residence.

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