Turkish private jet manager says he was 'threatened' into helping Ghosn escape

Turkish private jet manager says he was 'threatened' into helping Ghosn escape
The dramatic escape of former Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn has prompted the arrest of five people in Turkey.
3 min read
04 January, 2020
Ghosn has been on house arrest in Tokyo since April [AFP]
A manager at a private Turkish jet operator has said he assisted without his knowledge in the escape of former Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn because he had been threatened by a former acquaintance, Hurriyet newspaper reported on Saturday.

Turkish authorities earlier this week arrested five suspects on charges of migrant smuggling over Ghosn's dramatic escape from house arrest in Japan to Lebanon via Turkey. Among them was MNG Jet operations manager Okan Kosemen.

According to Hurriyet, Koseman told authorities a former acquaintance from Beirut had asked him for help on a matter of "international importance", Reuters reported.

The acquaintance went on to tell him his family would be harmed if he refused.

"I was scared. I took a man from one jet and put him into the other one at the airport. I did not know who he was," Koseman said in a statement according to the newspaper.

The statement could not immediately be verified. 

The former Nissan boss claimed on Thursday he organised his escape alone.

Turkish Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul told CNN Turk on Saturday said two foreigners were involved in  Ghosn's transit through Istanbul.

He did not provide further details on their nationality or exactly what role they played.

MNG Jet said on Friday one of its planes had been used "illegally" to transport Ghosn from Osaka to Beirut via Istanbul.

It said one employee had admitted to falsifying the records to keep Ghosn's name off the flight manifest, and that he acted "in his individual capacity". 

"MNG Jet filed a criminal complaint concerning the illegal use of its jet charter services in relation to Carlos Ghosn's escape from Japan," the company said in a statement. 

His surprise return to Lebanon just before New Year's Eve raised fresh questions over his judicial status and marked the latest twist in a saga that has rocked the automotive and business world for more than a year.

Lebanon's state news agency quoted Justice Minister Albert Sarhan as announcing that "the public prosecutor... has received what is known as a red notice from Interpol in the Carlos Ghosn case".

An Interpol red notice is a request for a provisional arrest, pending extradition or prosecution, but it is not a warrant.

Ghosn was arrested in November 2018 and was expected to face trial in April 2020. 

The Nissan chief was initially questioned on underreporting his income among other charges, and the carmaker launched an internal investigation that uncovered "substantial evidence of blatantly unethical conduct" by the former chairman, who ran three huge car companies.

He has since been stripped of his position on the board at Nissan and resigned as the head of Renault as well as the three-way alliance the two companies share with Mitsubishi Motors. Ghosn has repeatedly asserted his innocence.

Prosecutors fought his release, but a court granted him bail with conditions that he be monitored and could not meet with his wife, Carole, who has also been questioned by prosecutors in Tokyo.

Japan does not have an extradition treaty with Lebanon. It is unclear what steps authorities might take.

Junichiro Hironaka, Ghosn's lawyer told reporters on Tuesday that he was stunned that the French-Brazillian-Lebanese tycoon had jumped bail and denied any involvement in or knowledge of the escape.

He said the lawyers had all of Ghosn's three passports and was puzzled by how he could have left the country.

Agencies contributed to this report

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