The CEO That Fled Japan In A Box
Carlos Ghosn, born on 9 March 1954, was a very successful businessman and entrepreneur. He was the CEO of multiple companies such as Michelin North America. He was also the CEO of the Renault - Nissan - Mitsubishi alliance, a partnership among world-class automotive manufacturers which was known to be one of the largest automobile groups in the world. However, the life of Ghosn changed completely when he was accused of financial crimes and was arrested in Japan in 2019.
Carlos was born in Brazil in Porto Velho. At the age of six, he moved to Lebanon with his family where he completed his secondary education. He then went to Paris and graduated as an engineer from the Ecole Polytechnique, one of the most prestigious universities in France. Once he graduated, he started working for Michelin, the largest tire-making company in Europe. After working there for 12 years, he was named CEO of the company. He started working in Renault in 1996 and soon became the CEO because of all his efforts in rescuing the company from a near-bankruptcy. His reputation as a successful businessman continued when he formed the Renault - Nissan alliance in 1999. When Ghosn first joined Nissan, it had an automotive debt of more than 20 billion dollars, and regaining power was considered impossible for the company. However, Carlos Ghosn had a plan that he called Nissan Revival Plan. He set big goals for the company and promised to quit if the goals were not reached in the next three years. Even though the plan did work and was very successful, it resulted in 21.000 jobs being lost in Japan, reducing the number of shareholdings and shutting down five factories. Alongside these transitions, he also changed the company language from Japanese to English and gathered people from different parts of the world to discuss the future of the company. Even though all these changes were beneficial for Nissan, many people were not happy and at the time; streets were filled with workers protesting these changes and wanting their jobs back. These protests did not stop Carlos from continuing his plan, and in 2001, he was named the CEO of the company. On November 19th, 2018, when Carlos was going to Japan for a meeting, he was arrested. He was accused of using company profits for personal use. Even though there was no proof for any of the accusations, he was taken to the Tokyo Detention House and was kept there for 23 days under Japanese rules. On the day he was arrested, Nissan announced that Carlos was no longer in charge of their company. Renault, the other company of which he was in charge, told him that they would take care of the situation and clear up his name. However, things got chaotic when Renault resigned from the situation and did nothing. Carlos realized that this was more than just an accusation to tear him down, it also had a political side. He was left between France and Japan. In March 2019, he was able to request bail in a Tokyo court. He paid 9 million US dollars to get out of the Tokyo detention house however, he had a lot of restrictions. He was obliged to stay in a certain home under 24-hour camera surveillance with no internet and he could not travel abroad. He realized that he was not going to be able to get a fair trial since in Japan 99.9 percent of trials resulted in a conviction. Therefore he decided to flee Japan. The question ‘how?’ comes to mind since Japan has a very severe security policy. Ghosn, later on, explained how he did it in various interviews. He managed to get a phone delivered to the house and used it to plan the escape for weeks without being noticed. He said that he always turned the TV or the shower on when he was talking on the phone so that no one could hear him. Once everything was ready, he left his apartment, completely in disguise, on 29 December 2019 and met with the two men with whom he agreed. The two men were to act as two musicians returning to Lebanon after performing at a concert in Japan. Carlos was carried into the Kansai International Airport in a large instrument box. The box was not X-rayed since it was too big and the men told the airport security that it was too delicate. No one suspected anything and Ghosn was successfully carried into a private jet that headed to Istanbul. Within the first hour of the landing, he was on another plane heading to Beirut, Lebanon. Once the Japanese authorities found out he was in Lebanon, they issued a red notice for his arrest. But even though both Japan and Lebanon were members of Interpol (International Criminal Police Organization), they did not have an extradition agreement. Ghosn was able to hold his first press conference on 8 January 2020, in which he explained his innocence, named Nissan workers who planned his downfall, and detailed his imprisonment conditions. On January 30th, 2020, the Japanese authorities claimed that former United States Army Special Forces soldier Michael Taylor conducted the escape with his son Peter Taylor. They were both arrested later on in July 2021 and were each sentenced to two years in prison. Recently, in April 2022, France furnished an international warrant for Carlos’s arrest. He was accused of using Renault company funds for personal use. Ghosn said that he wanted to stand trial on these charges to bring light to the situation. He is still currently in a legal battle trying to clear up his name.
Carlos Ghosn, one of the most successful businessmen of all time, surely has a very interesting life story. Many books and documentaries were made about his life in Japanese, English, and French. Yet, it is still unknown if he really did use company profits for his own sake or if all the accusations were purposely made for his downfall.