Ghosn's escape leaves Japan red-faced.


Karachi: How could one of the most high-profile and instantly recognisable tycoons on Earth escape Japan just months before his trial, when his bail conditions strictly forbade him from leaving the country?

That's the question being asked in Japan, where Carlos Ghosn's abrupt departure and arrival in Lebanon is being seen as an embarrassing lapse in security.

The 65-year-old, who holds Brazilian, French and Lebanese passports, had all three confiscated as part of his bail conditions as he prepared to defend himself against multiple charges of financial misconduct.

One of his lawyers, Junichiro Hironaka, confirmed to reporters that they still had them in their possession, confessing he was "dumbfounded" at the news of his client's flight -- which he heard about via the media.

Public broadcaster NHK cited an anonymous source as saying the Immigration Services Agency had no record of a Carlos Ghosn leaving the country, and authorities were reviewing whether he left using another name.

NHK also quoted a foreign ministry official as insisting: "He was not supposed to leave the country. Had we known about it beforehand, we would have reported that to proper law enforcement authorities."

"If this development is true, it would be a matter between the legal authorities of the two countries," the official added.

Taichiro Motoe, a lawmaker from Shinzo Abe's ruling Liberal Democrat Party (LDP), said the news had come as a "shock" and called for "swift and effective" improvements.

Another LDP lawmaker, Masahisa Sato, said: "If this is true, it was not 'departing the country', it was an illegal departure and an escape, and this itself is a crime.

"Was there help extended by an unnamed country? It is also a serious problem that Japan's system allowed an illegal departure so easily," complained Sato, also a former state minister for foreign affairs.

Although there is no extradition agreement between Japan and Lebanon, the two have diplomatic ties, with a deputy Japanese foreign minister visiting Beirut 10 days ago.

'Political persecution'

It is also another blow for the reputation of Japan's justice system, which came under widespread fire both at home and abroad during Ghosn's detention for provisions that allow suspects to be held for long periods.

Amnesty International...

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