The former CEO of Nissan and Renault, Carlos Ghosn, told himself for the first time how he got out of the country a year and a half after his dramatic escape from Japan, where he was under house arrest on suspicion of fraud. In an exclusive interview with the BBC, Ghosn recounts how an hour and a half in the music box felt like “a year and a half”.
Ghosn was arrested in Japan in November 2018 when Nissan accused him of fraud, something the former auto mogul has long denied. “It’s like you get hit by a bus or something very painful happens to you. The only memory in this moment is shock and shock,” Ghosn describes the moment of his arrest. “Suddenly I had to learn to live without a watch, without a computer, without a phone, without news and without a pen.”
For more than a year, Ghosn has been in prison alternately or under house arrest in his Tokyo home. If convicted, he risks 15 years in prison.
When Ghosn was told he was no longer allowed to call his wife Carol, the former Nissan CEO decided to try to escape. “The plan was that I couldn’t show my face, so I had to hide somewhere. The only way I could hide was in the trunk or luggage so that no one would see me and no one would recognize me. Only that way could the plan work,” Ghosn said. His choice of music box is “the most reasonable choice, as many concerts were being held in Japan at that time”.
Ghosn describes how he acted as normal as possible on the day of his disappearance, changing his suit for daily clothes and taking the train to Osaka. A special flight was waiting there, but Ghosn first had to hide in a coffin in a nearby hotel. “The moment you enter the coffin, you don’t think about the past or the future, you only think about the moment itself,” Ghosn says. “You are not afraid, you have no feelings and you are just focused on the fact that this is your only chance. If you let it go, you will pay for life as a hostage in Japan.”
In total, Ghosn estimates he spent an hour and a half in the coffin, although that sounds like “a year and a half”. “30 minutes in the box waiting for the plane to take off was probably the longest of my life.”
Ghosn eventually landed in the Lebanese capital, Beirut. Lebanon does not have an extradition treaty with Japan, allowing Ghosn to spend his days there as a free man.
Michael and Peter Taylor, the two Americans who helped Ghosn escape, have been extradited to Japan and face up to three years in prison. Ghosn’s former classmate at Nissan, Greg Kelly, also risks prison staff. How does Ghosn view those trials against people left behind in Japan? “I feel sorry for all the people who have fallen victim to Japan’s hostage justice system, and all of them,” he says.
The full interview with Carlos Ghosn will be broadcast on BBC4 this evening at 11pm.
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