The Sensational Tale of Carlos Ghosn: Auto CEO to International Fugitive


It’s a blockbuster story that has all the makings of a major Hollywood picture, and one day it may be, the tale of how Carlos Ghosn, former CEO of Nissan, Renault, and Mitsubishi, became an international fugitive.

From CEO to international fugitive

The larger-than-life story of Carlos Ghosn sounds like it’s straight out of Hollywood. It certainly isn’t the typical fare one would imagine coming from a Chief Executive Officer from the automotive industry, and especially not from one who formerly headed the combination of the Nissan Motor Company, carmaker Renault SA and Mitsubishi Motors.

Sure, we might expect a CEO to manipulate a few things or mislead shareholders for self-enrichment, but this story goes way beyond that. In this true-life story, there is corporate espionage, intrigue, backstabbing, a daring jailbreak – all leading to becoming an international fugitive.

Where and how it all started

Carlos Ghosn was born in Brazil but is of French and Lebanese descent. His improbable tale begins with him becoming the CEO of the world’s largest global car making alliance, which builds one out of every nine cars sold around the world.

Ghosn worked his way into the seat of power and established a reputation as one of the most successful and well-respected automobile executives in recent history, according to Forbes.

His tale may be wild, but Ghosn was not flashy like his contemporary, Elon Musk. Instead, Ghosn was the personification of an old-school, buttoned-up car executive.

Where things took a bad turn

In November 2018, after 40 years as an auto executive, Ghosn was arrested in Japan following an internal investigation in whistleblower report revealed “significant acts of misconduct” alleged to have occurred overall several years, which also involved another top executive, CNN reported.

Ghosn refuted the allegations and always adamantly professed his innocence. He alleged there was a plot to remove him from the company.

After his arrest, Ghosn was held by authorities in Japan for over 100 days. The country has a 99% conviction rate. However, he was allowed to remain under house arrest in a mansion in an upscale Tokyo neighborhood.

Daring escape

Here’s where things began to switch toward an espionage thriller… At the house where he was being held, a breakout was organized. An event was scheduled at the mansion where Ghosn was under house arrest. A band was hired, but they were not musicians. Ghosn’s son and a former Green Beret were part of the band members pretending to be musicians.

They smuggled Ghosn out of the country inside a large instrument case. Ghosn is rather short at 5 foot 6 inches tall, and easily fit into a 6-foot-tall, double-bass violin case. A private jet took him to Istanbul, Turkey. From there, he was taken to his home country of Lebanon, which doesn’t have an extradition treaty with Japan.

After his escape, Ghosn told the press he wasn’t running away but, instead, had to “escape injustice.” I said it was impossible for him to have a fair and impartial trial in Japan.

On May 20, 2020, Reuters reported that US authorities “arrested a former U.S. Army Special Forces soldier and another man wanted by Japan on charges that they enabled the escape of former Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn.”

The two Americans who were arrested maintain that “bail jumping” isn’t a crime in Japan, and therefore assisting someone to evade their bail conditions isn’t a crime, according to their attorneys.

INTERPOL has sent an arrest warrant for Ghosn to Lebanon’s justice minister.

Emails emerge that may support Ghosn’s innocence claims

On June 14, Bloomberg reported on a series of emails that dated back to 2018 which appear to support his claims.

Bloomberg reported that it is in possession of internal emails and evidence suggesting that executives at Nissan did plot to remove Ghosn.

Further, Bloomberg alleged that former executives at Nissan engaged in a “methodical campaign” against Ghosn because they were displeased with his merging Japan-based Nissan with France-based Renault. Bloomberg said the Japanese executives feared Ghosn held too much power over them and he needed to go.

Nissan released a statement on Tuesday saying: “We have been made aware of numerous documents repeatedly circulated by the media that we suspect were forged or falsified to suggest that they were sent by Nissan individuals.”