The former boss of both auto makers Nissan and Renault, Carlos Ghosn, spoke out publicly for the first time about his arrest and scape from Japan in an interview to the BBC.
Ghosn recalled how he was bundled inside a box on board a plane at 10.30 pm on a cold December night in 2019 as he waited to flee Japan.
“The plane was scheduled to take off at 11pm,” recalled the former titan of the global car industry. “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,” Ghosn said.
In the interview, Ghosn recalled the manner in which he was forced to take on a disguise so that he could avoid law enforcers and remain unnoticed through the streets of Tokyo.
He chose to hide inside a large music equipment box which was used for smuggling himself out of Japan where he was under house arrest over charges of financial fraud. He had fled to Lebanon – and Japan has no extradition treaty with the country.
“The thrill was that finally, I’m going to be able to tell the story,” Ghosn said.
Police in Tokyo had arrested Ghosn in November 2018 over charges filed by Nissan of him understating his annual salary as well as of misusing company funds.
Ghosh has denied all of the charges. At the time of his arrest, Ghosn was the chairman of the Japanese carmaker Nissan as well as the chairman of French auto maker Renault. He also headed the three-way alliance between Nissan, Renault and Mitsubishi.
The cot curtailment measures that Ghosn had implemented at Nissan were criticised initially but later turned out to be the saviour of the company. That had propelled Ghosn to an icon for the international auto industry and was highly respected and a very easily recognisable figure.
He however insists that he was made a “collateral damage” in a tussle between Nissan and Renault in which the Japanese car maker trued ot fight back the increasing influence on the company of Renault – which owns 43 per cent stake in the Japanese firm.
“It’s like you’re being hit by a bus or something really very traumatic happened to you. The only memory I have of this moment is shock, frozen trauma,” Ghosn said describing the moment of his arrest at Toyko airport three years ago.
Ghosn remained in custody for more than a year in Japan – including a period of house arrest from which he escaped.
“The plan was I could not show my face so I have to be hidden somewhere,” Ghosn said describing 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.”
“It should be a normal day where I have a normal walk with normal clothes, normal attitude and all of a sudden, everything change,” said Ghosn about the particular day he was to flee.
Ghosn travelled in a bullet train to Osaka form Tokyo where arrangements had been made for a private jet for his escape. But before getting into the plane Ghosn had to get into the large music box at a local hotel.
“When you get in the box, you don’t think about the past, you don’t think about the future, you just think about the moment,” he said. “You’re not afraid, you don’t have any emotion except the huge concentration on ‘this is your chance, you can’t miss it. If you miss it, you’re going to pay with your life, with the life of a hostage in Japan’.”
He was helped in being transported to the airport in Osaka by two men who posed as musicians.
(Adapted from BBC.com)