Former Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn, who fled to Lebanon to avoid a Japanese trial, was carrying one of his two French passports, local media said Thursday, as Japan launched a probe into the embarrassing security lapse.
Ghosn, who faces multiple charges of financial misconduct that he denies, won bail in April but with strict conditions, including a bar on overseas travel.
His lead lawyer Junichiro Hironaka has said lawyers hold three passports belonging to the international tycoon, who holds French, Brazilian and Lebanese nationalities.
But public broadcaster NHK said the court had allowed him to keep a second French passport so long as it were kept “in a locked case” with the key held by his lawyers.
There is no emigration data showing Ghosn’s departure from Japan but he entered Lebanon on a French passport, NHK said.
Prosecutors and police are poised to launch an investigation into the stunning escape, suspecting he departed “in an unlawful manner,” NHK said.
Authorities plan to analyze security camera footage from his residence and other places they suspect Ghosn appeared before he fled, NHK said.
Police suspect “several” people accompanied him to help him escape, it added.
Immediate confirmation of the report was not available.
When his defense lawyers were arguing for bail, prosecutors claimed he was a flight risk with powerful connections, but Ghosn himself had said he wanted to be tried to prove his innocence.
One of his lawyers also said he was such a famous face that he had no chance to slip away undetected.
Some countries allow people to have two passports of the same nationality, for reasons including if they are traveling to nations in conflict with one another.
France, for its part, “will not extradite” Ghosn if if he arriveds in the country, a minister said.
“If Mr Ghosn arrived in France, we will not extradite Mr Ghosn because France never extradites its nationals,” junior economy minister Agnes Pannier-Runacher told France’s BFM news channel.
The French government nonetheless considered that Ghosn, who is of Lebanese origin and who fled house arrest in Tokyo to Beirut on Monday, “should not have absconded from the Japanese justice system.”
“No one is above the law,” the minister said.
But if he arrived in France and Japan then demanded that Paris extradite him, ” we will apply the same rules to Mr Ghosn as to the man in the street”, she added.
Ghosn was also CEO of French car-maker Renault before being ousted from the auto industry after being arrested in Japan in November on charges of financial misconduct.
He is also under investigation in France but has not yet been charged with any crime in the country.