Duvar English / Reuters

An Istanbul court ruled on Jan. 3 to formally arrest five suspects who were detained as part of an investigation into ex-Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn’s transit through Turkey after fleeing Japan, state-run Anadolu Agency reported. The suspects were accused of “human trafficking.”

The other two suspects were released from custody.

On Jan. 2, Turkish police detained seven people — four pilots, a cargo company manager and two airport workers — as part of an investigation of how Ghosn touched down in Istanbul as he fled Japan en route to Lebanon.

Ghosn became an international fugitive after he revealed on Dec. 31, 2019 that he had fled to Lebanon to escape what he called a “rigged” justice system in Japan, where he faces charges relating to alleged financial crimes. 

Lebanon on Jan. 2 received an Interpol arrest warrant for Ghosn, whose surprise escape from his home in Tokyo to a separate home in Beirut has not been fully explained.

As part of the investigation launched by the Turkish authorities, the flights of two private jets from the Japanese city of Osaka to Istanbul’s Atatürk Airport and then Beirut were investigated.

One of the jets, which took off from Osaka, landed at Atatürk Airport at 05.15 a.m. local time on Dec. 29, 2019, while the other jet Bombardier Challenger 300 took off from Atatürk Airport for Beirut at 06.00 a.m. local time on Dec. 30, 2019, Anadolu Agency said.

Japanese authorities allowed Ghosn to carry a spare French passport in a locked case while out on bail, Japan’s public broadcaster NHK said on Jan. 2, shedding some light on how he managed his escape to Lebanon.

MNG Jet: Ghosn used our jets illegally to escape from Japan

Meanwhile, Turkey’s MNG Jet has confirmed that two business jets it operates for charter flights were used by Ghosn in his escape from Japan. In a statement issued on Jan. 3 morning, MNG said it has filed a criminal complaint against an unnamed employee who it alleges falsified records for two flights to conceal the fact that Ghosn was on board.

MNG Jet said in its statement it leased two jets to two different clients in agreements that “were seemingly not connected to each other.”

“The name of Mr Ghosn did not appear in the official documentation of any of the flights,” it said.

“After having learnt through the media that the leasing was benefiting Mr. Ghosn and not the officially declared passengers, MNG Jet launched an internal inquiry and filed a criminal complaint in Turkey,” it added.

An employee admitted to falsifying the records and confirmed he “acted in his individual capacity,” the company said.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Jan. 3 that the diminutive Ghosn slipped out of Japan aboard a private jet hidden in a large black case typically used to carry audio gear. He was accompanied by a pair of men with names matching those of American security contractors, the newspaper said, citing people familiar with Turkey’s probe into the escape.

NHK, citing investigative sources, said a surveillance camera captured the former Nissan Motor Co chairman leaving his Tokyo residence alone shortly before his escape.

The security footage was taken by a camera installed at his house in central Tokyo around noon on Jan. 29, 2019, and the camera did not show him returning home, NHK said.

Turkish interior ministry spokesman İsmail Çataklı told reporters on Jan. 3 that Ghosn was believed to have been transferred through the cargo section of the airport in Istanbul, but did not provide further details.

Ghosn has said he will speak publicly about his escape on Jan. 8.

Some Lebanese media, in reports similar to the Wall Street Journal, have floated a Houdini-like account of Ghosn being packed in a wooden container for musical instruments after a private concert in his home, but his wife has called the account “fiction.”

NHK said police suspected Ghosn may have left his home to meet up with someone before heading to an airport. Under the terms of his bail, Ghosn was required to have security cameras installed at the entrance of his house.