A Turkish conglomerate whose private jets carried Carlos Ghosn from Japan to Lebanon has rejected the account of a British ex-serviceman who has denied any role in the former Nissan boss’s escape.
The Financial Times revealed on Monday that a company linked to the former soldier, Mike Douglas, had made a $175,000 payment in relation to the 13-seater Bombardier Global Express that whisked Mr Ghosn out of Osaka at the end of December.
The payment to MNG Jet, a Turkish private charter company, came from Dubai-based Al Nitaq Al Akhdhar for General Trade Limited, which is linked to Mr Douglas.
But Mr Douglas, whose main business is a logistics company, SKA International, denied on Monday any involvement in Mr Ghosn’s escape.
“We have ongoing business for cargo,” he said. “We have cargo with MNG all the time.
“Any payment we’ve made was for other logistics, cargo business, but we didn’t charter any aircraft,” he said. Pressed with the claim that Al-Nitaq al-Akhdhar made the payment for Mr Ghosn’s flight, Mr Douglas said that it appeared the firm had been “used and abused”.
On Tuesday, MNG Group — the Turkish conglomerate that owns MNG Jet and MNG Airlines — disputed the notion that its subsidiaries had transported cargo for Mr Douglas’s companies and said it had been engaged in only very limited dealings with such firms in the past.
“We’ve checked our records and we can find no record of any significant business dealings between the SKA group of companies and MNG Jet, which conducts plane maintenance and leasing for private jets, and MNG Airlines, which conducts cargo operations,” an MNG Group spokesperson said.
“The only dealing we can find was two small fuel purchases made by MNG Airlines from SKA in 2009 and 2014.”
The spokesman added: “At the end of December, MNG Jet received a $175,000 payment from Dubai by the company Al Nitaq Al Akhdhar, a corporation unknown to MNG Jet. This transfer was done for the payment of the first settlement for the flight Dubai-Osaka-Istanbul.”
MNG Group stressed that the two jets that took Mr Ghosn to Beirut via Istanbul were arranged by a rogue employee called Okan Kosemen without the knowledge or approval of senior management. Mr Kosemen was arrested last week by Turkish authorities and he was later jailed pending trial.
According to Turkish media, Mr Kosemen said he did not know that the person who he helped to transport was Mr Ghosn.
Mr Douglas did not respond on Tuesday to a request for comment.
Like Mike Taylor and George Zayek, the two private security contractors who accompanied Mr Ghosn on his journey out of Japan, Mr Douglas is a former military man who found plentiful business opportunities in the wake of the US invasion of Iraq.
He founded SKA International in 2003, the same year that US troops entered the country, and became a major contractor for the US government.
Later, embracing the slogan “Doing difficult jobs in difficult places”, SKA expanded to other countries including Afghanistan, Somalia and Yemen.
Mr Douglas faced struggles with Iraqi bureaucracy, which had at times hampered his operations over licensing issues, two businessmen working in Iraq said. But his business nonetheless prospered, allowing the Briton to establish himself as a well-known expatriate executive operating in the oil-rich country. Representing SKA, he has spoken at, and sponsored, conferences organised by the Iraqi British Business Council.
His competitors and peers say he has made a great deal of money since setting up 17 years ago.
Two of his associates said he owned a property in one of the most upmarket locations in Dubai, Emirates Hills. As one of the city’s few zones where foreigners can build their own mansions, it is a popular district for the city’s wealthiest expatriates.