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Getaway appears to be inside job

When a former auto boss-turned-suspect does a Houdini act and vanishes from Japan, then mysteriously reappears in Lebanon, questions will be raised. So how did Carlos Ghosn, the former Renault-Nissan chief, pull off such an audacious escape from right under the noses of security agencies in Japan, a country where he is being investigated for corruption? Why was security so lax ahead of his trial? Ghosn is a familiar face and it is surprising how he managed to give officials the slip. His lawyer said he is “shocked” by the development. If some reports are to believed, Ghosn sneaked into a musical instrument box aboard a private plane to Lebanon where he holds citizenship and remains a respected figure despite his fall from grace on the other side of the world.

The former automobile titan also has a French passport but he decided against heading to the country as it has an extradition treaty with Japan, where he is being tried for white collar crimes. This getaway appears to be an inside job and Ghosn’s connections in higher echelons seemed to have helped him flee the country. The flight happened at an opportune moment for Ghosn when the system was caught napping during the holiday season.

The former corporate hero was jailed on two occasions last year and the high profile case in Japan has been followed closely by world media. Ghosn rose to fame after he did the impossible by bringing Nissan and Renault together for a successful partnership. Mitsubishi became the third partner to make it a behemoth. But the fall was swift for Ghosn, the revered corporate savior, who has since maintained his innocence, which raises another question: Why did he flee justice if his hands were clean? The system in Japan was rigged, he said. He had escaped “injustice and political persecution,” he claimed. Lebanon, where he is now based, faces a harsh winter of discontent. The economy is on its knees and there is political chaos. A fugitive in its midst makes matters worse. Talk about flying from the frying pan to the fire. To locate and extricate Ghosn will, therefore, be a gargantuan task, but the accused has promised to become more active on social media in the coming weeks. Meanwhile, the quest for justice continues. The system clearly failed to stop Carlos Ghosn from fleeing because it was rigged.

* Guest editorial from the Khaleej Times in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.