Carlos Ghosn’s escape from central Tokyo to Beirut by private jet started with a three-hour ride on a public bullet train, according to Japanese media on Monday.
The reports, carried by Nippon Television and TV Asahi, claimed that after walking out of his rented house the former Nissan chairman boarded the bullet train at Tokyo’s Shinagawa station at about 4.30pm — a vast railway hub about 6km from where he had been under house arrest since April 2019.
If confirmed, Mr Ghosn’s use of Japan’s famous high-speed train would fill a big gap in the account of his escape. But would raise new questions about how he was able to avoid attention riding on public transport.
Mr Ghosn reportedly left the bullet train at Shin-Osaka station more than two hours later, at which point he travelled to a hotel by taxi. He fled on December 29 — one of the busiest days of the year for rail, road and air travel as hundreds of thousands of Japanese criss-cross the country to visit family for the extended New Year holidays.
Previous accounts of the escape, given to the Financial Times, suggested that he left Japan from the private jet terminal of Kansai International Airport at just after 11pm on December 29 on a flight that took him to Istanbul.
The Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office declined to comment.
The revelations came as Japan’s justice minister on Monday said the country plans to toughen post-bail surveillance measures and may introduce electronic tagging in the wake of Mr Ghosn’s escape last week.
Masako Mori, justice minister, struggled when asked by media to explain why the former Nissan-Renault boss had not been ordered to wear a GPS tracking device while on bail in Tokyo, even though he was described as a flight risk and had offered to wear one.
“We are currently reviewing our bail system. In light of recent escape incidents . . . we hope to accelerate our deliberations,” Ms Mori said.
Ms Mori was also asked about one of the more intriguing elements of Mr Ghosn’s escape — the stage of the process when he is believed to have been hidden inside a large black packing case normally used for transporting audio equipment.
According to a person familiar with the logistics of his escape, the use of the box was central to a scheme that allowed the fugitive to be smuggled on to the plane without passing any of the immigration controls at Kansai airport.
While luggage is normally subject to both security and customs checks at airports, travellers using a private jet terminal often bypass security if the plane’s operator or pilot gives permission, according to airport security experts.
But, they added, it was extremely rare that a large box such as the one believed to have contained Mr Ghosn would pass through customs checks without being opened. The Kansai airport customs branch declined to comment.
There remain significant questions about Mr Ghosn’s disappearance. Yet Ms Mori fielded questions from just two Japanese media organisations in a short news conference where she largely declined to comment on details.
At his first press conference of the year, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe did not face a single question regarding Mr Ghosn’s escape or the effect it might have on a case that has put the Japanese justice system under global scrutiny.