Ex-Nissan boss opens up about music box escape from Japan

The former chairman of Nissan has explained for the first time how he was smuggled out of a box from Japan to avoid prosecution in the country.

Carlos Ghosn told the BBC how he disguised himself to slip through the streets of Tokyo before clambering inside a box for musical equipment and placed inside a private jet bound for Lebanon.

He said: “The plane was scheduled to take off at 11pm. The 30 minutes waiting in the box on the plane, waiting for it to take off, was probably the longest wait I’ve ever experienced in my life.”

In total, he would spend about 90 minutes inside the box, he added.

Mr Ghosn, who previously ran Nissan and Renault, was arrested in November 2018 over allegations he had misused company funds – an allegation he denies – and taken to a detention centre where he was confined to a cell.

If found guilty, he faced up to 15 years in prison.

He was subsequently released on bail and placed under house arrest, from where he staged his dramatic escape in December 2019.

Previously the businessman, who has Brazilian, French and Lebanese passports, has refused to explain how he managed to flee the country.

Of his arrest, he told the BBC: “It’s like you’re being hit by a bus or something really very traumatic happened to you.

“The only memory I have of this moment is shock, frozen trauma.”

Carlos Ghosn
Carlos Ghosn used to run Nissan and Renault before his arrest. (David Parry / PA)

During his time at Nissan he embarked on heavy cost-cutting and claims he was “collateral damage” in a fight between the Japanese carmaker and Renault, which has a 43% stake in the business.

He said using a musical equipment box was “the most logical one, particularly that around this time there were a lot of concerts in Japan”.

On the day of his escape he would behave as normally as possible – going for a walk, dressing in a suit – before switching to jeans and trainers and travelling by bullet train to Osaka from Tokyo where a private jet was waiting.

He was helped into the box by US citizens Michael and Peter Taylor, who are facing three years in a Japanese prison for their role, and jetted off to Turkey before going to Lebanon.

Mr Ghosn added: “When you get in the box, you don’t think about the past, you don’t think about the future, you just think about the moment.

“You’re not afraid, you don’t have any emotion except the huge concentration on ‘this is your chance, you can’t miss it. If you miss it, you’re going to pay with your life, with the life of a hostage in Japan’.”

He remains in Lebanon, which does not have an extradition treaty with Japan.

Greg Kelly, a former Nissan executive who was close to the former boss, faces a prison sentence if he is found guilty of helping Mr Ghosn under-report his pay by tens of millions of dollars. He denies the charges.