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Carlos Ghosn lawyer tells of despair at Japanese justice

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Via Financial Times

One of Carlos Ghosn’s leading lawyers has described his despair at the Japanese justice system as new details emerged of the former Nissan chairman’s dramatic escape from Tokyo to Beirut.

In a widely shared blog, Takashi Takano, one of the lawyers involved in convincing the Tokyo District Court that Mr Ghosn should be granted bail, wrote of his anger when he learnt Mr Ghosn had fled Japan. But Mr Takano then launched a blunt critique of the Japanese legal system: “I was betrayed, but the one who betrayed me is not Carlos Ghosn,” he wrote.

Mr Takano’s blog focused on a call that Mr Ghosn made on Christmas Eve to his wife, whom he was not allowed to see under the conditions of his bail and could only speak to with the court’s permission. Mr Takano wrote that after the call he apologised to Mr Ghosn and felt “embarrassed”.

There is growing evidence from people close to the situation that government and private surveillance levels around the tycoon had dropped in the days preceding his flight.

Mr Ghosn’s flight from bail, which centred on a private jet flight from Osaka to Istanbul, began with him simply walking out of his rented house in Tokyo wearing a hat and a mask, said people familiar with Japan’s ongoing investigation into the debacle. He does not appear to have been followed by police, prosecutors or private detectives.

On Friday and Saturday, more fallout from the escape began to emerge. A Turkish court released two employees of a ground services company who were detained in connection with Mr Ghosn’s transit through Istanbul, Turkish media reported on Friday night. Five others who were taken in for questioning at the same time — four pilots and an operations manager for a Turkish private jet operator — have been jailed pending trial.

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And while it initially seemed that Mr Ghosn had been welcomed back into Lebanon by its government, Beirut appeared to be distancing itself from the escape which has put Lebanese authorities in a diplomatic bind because they had previously lobbied Japan to return him through official channels.

“Lebanon has nothing to do with Ghosn’s escape from Japan,” insisted Lebanon’s minister for presidential affairs Salim Jreissati in a Friday meeting with Japan’s ambassador to Beirut.

State media reported that Mr Jreissati and Takeshi Okubo also discussed the ramifications of Interpol’s red notice, which asks, but does not oblige, Lebanon to temporarily arrest Mr Ghosn.

The escape appears to have been partly orchestrated by former US special forces and other private security operatives. Mr Ghosn was accompanied on the plane from Osaka to Istanbul by two American passport holders, Michael Taylor and George Antoine Zayek, according to a person familiar with the details of the flight manifest.

The names of Mr Taylor and Mr Zayek correspond with those of former special forces operatives with a long record as private security contractors in the Middle East and Africa. Neither could be reached for comment.

An online biography notes Mr Zayek’s skill at protecting critical infrastructure and providing security for corporations in emerging markets. His experience includes “war”.

In March 2015, Mr Taylor was sentenced to 24 months in prison for trying to bribe an FBI counter-intelligence agent to thwart an investigation into kickbacks paid by his security company, American International Security Corporation, to obtain roughly $54m in Defence Department contracts. Calls to IAS, a Boston-area security firm registered under Mr Taylor’s name, were not returned.

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On Saturday, reflecting the tone of much of the Japanese online commentary since the escape, prime time news analysis programmes began by declaring that Mr Ghosn’s daring escape had mocked Japan.

The same programmes ran footage from Kansai International airport showing a private jet taking off on the night of December 29, along with commentary by experts describing the relatively lax checks applied to passengers and luggage leaving on private flights.

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