Ghosn ‘fled by bullet train’, Japan vows to bolster borders

Fugitive former Nissan Motor Co. President and CEO Carlos Ghosn left on a bullet train. (AP/Eugene Hoshiko, File)
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Updated 06 January 2020

Ghosn ‘fled by bullet train’, Japan vows to bolster borders

  • The 65-year-old executive skipped bail nearly a week ago
  • Japan is still investigating how the fugitive managed to jump bail and flee to Lebanon

TOKYO: New reports emerged Monday on how fugitive former Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn jumped bail in Japan, as the country’s justice minister said border controls would be bolstered after the escape.
The 65-year-old executive skipped bail nearly a week ago, fleeing Japan where he was awaiting trial on multiple counts of financial misconduct that he denies.
The details of his escape remain spotty, with Japan saying it is still investigating how he slipped past strict security measures imposed as part of his bail conditions.
Citing people involved in the investigation, Nippon Television Network (NTV) said Monday that Ghosn boarded a “shinkansen” bullet train from Tokyo’s Shinagawa station on December 29.
He got off at a station in western Osaka, arriving around 7:30pm and taking a taxi to a hotel near Kansai Airport, NTV said.
He is thought to have taken a private jet the same day from the airport, bound for Istanbul, where he switched planes and continued to Beirut.
Last week, local media reported Ghosn was caught on security camera leaving his Tokyo home by himself around noon on December 29.
But the exact circumstances of his departure from Japan are still shrouded in mystery.
The justice ministry said it did not have records of Ghosn departing Japan.
“It is believed that he used some wrongful methods to illegally leave the country,” Justice Minister Masako Mori said at a press conference on Monday.
“I have instructed the immigration agency to further tighten the departure process,” she added.




Mystery still surrounds Ghon's escape. (File/Shutterstock) 


The Wall Street Journal has reported that Ghosn was loaded onto the flight from Osaka in a large case for audio equipment, which was later found at the back of the cabin.
The newspaper cited unnamed sources close to the investigation in Turkey as saying that holes had been drilled into the bottom of the container to ensure the businessman could breathe.
Japan’s transport ministry told AFP that luggage checks are not mandatory for private jets.
“Operators of private jets decide if luggage checks are necessary or not while airline operators are obliged to conduct security checks under Japan’s aviation law,” a ministry official told AFP.
“The security checks are carried out to prevent danger such as bombs, and to prevent hijacks,” he said, adding such risks are considered less likely for private jets.
Ghosn, who has French, Brazilian and Lebanese nationalities, was able to enter Lebanon on a French passport, according to airport documents seen by AFP.
A court in Tokyo had allowed Ghosn to keep a second French passport as he needed one to travel inside Japan, a source close to the matter has told AFP.
Japan has launched a probe into the humiliating security lapse and prosecutors said they would “coordinate with the relevant agencies to swiftly and appropriately investigate the matter.”
Ghosn has vowed to give his own account at a hotly awaited press conference in Beirut this week.


Turkish verdict paving way for Hagia Sophia mosque expected Friday

Updated 7 min 26 sec ago

Turkish verdict paving way for Hagia Sophia mosque expected Friday

  • The propsoed restoration as a mosque has raised alarm among US, Russian and Greek officials and Christian church leaders
  • Turkish groups have long campaigned for Hagia Sophia’s conversion, saying it would better reflect Turkey’s status as an overwhelmingly Muslim country

ANKARA: Turkish court is likely to announce on Friday that the 1934 conversion of Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia into a museum was unlawful, two Turkish officials said, paving the way for its restoration as a mosque despite international concerns.
President Tayyip Erdogan has proposed restoring the mosque status of the sixth-century UNESCO World Heritage Site, which was central to both the Christian Byzantine and Muslim Ottoman empires and is now one of the most visited monuments in Turkey.
The prospect of such a move has raised alarm among US, Russian and Greek officials and Christian church leaders ahead of a verdict by Turkey’s top administrative court, the Council of State, which held a hearing last Thursday.
At issue is the legality of a decision taken in 1934, a decade after the creation of the modern secular Turkish republic under Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, to turn the ancient building into a museum.
“We expect the decision to be an annulment (and) the verdict to come out on Friday,” a senior Turkish official told Reuters.
An official from Erdogan’s ruling AK Party, which has Islamist roots, also said the decision “in favor of an annulment” was expected on Friday.
Pro-government columnist Abdulkadir Selvi wrote in the Hurriyet newspaper that the court had already made the annulment ruling and would publish it on Friday.
“This nation has been waiting for 86 years. The court lifted the chain of bans on Hagia Sophia,” he wrote.
The association that brought the case said Hagia Sophia was the property of Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II, who in 1453 captured the city, then known as Constantinople, and turned the already 900-year-old Byzantine church into a mosque.
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the spiritual head of some 300 million Orthodox Christians worldwide and based in Istanbul, said a conversion would disappoint Christians and “fracture” East and West. The head of Russia’s Orthodox Church said it would threaten Christianity.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Greece have also urged Turkey to maintain the museum status.
But Turkish groups have long campaigned for Hagia Sophia’s conversion, saying it would better reflect Turkey’s status as an overwhelmingly Muslim country.