A Turkish private jet operator admitted it helped Carlos Ghosn to stage his daring escape from Japan but blamed a rogue employee for leasing two planes to the former Nissan chairman.
MNG Jet, a subsidiary of a major Turkish conglomerate, said that it had filed a criminal complaint against its own employees in relation to the “illegal use of its jet charter services in relation to Carlos Ghosn’s escape from Japan”.
The company’s chief executive, Can Sasmaz, said that one of MNG Jet’s employees had admitted falsifying passenger records. “He confirmed that he acted in his individual capacity, without the knowledge or the authorisation of the management of MNG Jet,” Mr Sasmaz said in a statement published on Friday.
Turkey detained seven people on Thursday after it emerged that Mr Ghosn had briefly touched down in Istanbul as he fled a looming trial in Tokyo on charges of financial misconduct — accusations he has consistently denied.
Those taken in for police questioning included a manager at MNG Jet and four pilots, Turkish media reported.
Japanese prosecutors on Thursday raided the house occupied by the former carmaker executive in Tokyo. The raid was the first stage of an investigation that is expected to prove highly embarrassing to Japanese prosecutors, who had been in charge of keeping watch on a man they had repeatedly warned the courts was a flight risk.
On Friday, Japan’s state broadcaster NHK cited sources close to the investigation who said that footage taken by cameras mounted outside the front door of Mr Ghosn’s rented house in Tokyo had shown him leaving the house alone shortly before his escape. The cameras did not record him ever returning and investigators are now combing the footage of other cameras in nearby streets in an effort to glean more clues on how he made it from central Tokyo to the airport he left from in a private jet.
Publicly available flight data shows that a jet travelling from Osaka’s Kansai airport landed at Istanbul’s Ataturk airport on December 29 at about 5.26am. Shortly afterwards, a separate plane departed for Lebanon — the homeland of Mr Ghosn’s grandparents.
The chairman of MNG Holdings, Mehmet Nazif Gunal, was initially reported to have denied that MNG Jet planes had been used in the escape. According to a report on the website of TV 100, later taken down, Mr Gunal told the news station on January 1 that a jet travelling from Osaka to Istanbul was carrying two American tourists who had travelled to Osaka for a concert.
On Friday, however, MNG Jet said that it had launched an internal investigation after learning through the media that the planes were “benefiting Mr Ghosn and not the officially declared passengers”. That led to the company filing a criminal complaint.
MNG Jet said that the two aircraft — which records identify as a Bombardier Global Express and a Bombardier Challenger 300 — did not belong to MNG Jet but were operated by the company.
It said that the two jets were seemingly leased to two separate clients, adding: “The two leases were seemingly not connected to each other. The name of Mr Ghosn did not appear in the official documentation of any of the flights.”
It added: “MNG Jet is proactively co-operating with the authorities and hopes that the people who illegally used and/or facilitated the use of the services of the company will be duly prosecuted.”
The company’s admission fills in a missing piece of the puzzle in Mr Ghosn’s bold escape, which had been planned with the help of private security operatives since October, according to people familiar with the situation. But multiple questions remain.