Japan vows to improve border checks, bail after Ghosn escape

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A Lebanese woman with her puppy, passes by the house of ex-Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn, in Beirut, Lebanon, Sunday, Jan. 5, 2020. Ghosn earlier this week jumped bail in Japan and fled to Lebanon rather than face trial on financial misconduct charges in a dramatic escape that has confounded and embarrassed authorities. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

TOKYO – Japan's justice minister vowed Monday to strengthen border checks and review bail conditions after Nissan's former chairman, Carlos Ghosn, fled the country despite supposedly stringent surveillance.

Masako Mori told reporters at a news conference that the ministry has already acted to prevent a recurrence but declined to give details. Ghosn skipped bail and showed up in Lebanon a week ago, saying he could not get a fair hearing in Japan, where he was awaiting trial on financial misconduct allegations.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Michael L. Taylor, a former Green Beret who has previously rescued hostages, was among those involved in Ghosn's escape plan.

The team that spirited Ghosn out of the country made numerous trips to Japan to scout out possible escape routes, the newspaper reported, citing sources it did not identify. It said they settled on Osaka's airport, where cargo X-ray scanners were not big enough to handle the man-sized concert equipment box apparently used to get Ghosn aboard a private flight. He flew from there to Istanbul, then switched to a different plane to fly to Beirut, according to the Turkish airline company MNG Jet, which said its planes were used illegally.

Mori declined to say who might be held responsible for such a high-profile escape, stressing it was still under investigation.

While out on 1.5 billion yen ($14 million) bail, Ghosn was living in a home in an upscale part of Tokyo under strict surveillance as part of the conditions for his release. That raises questions about how he left undetected.

Security cameras at his home operated 24 hours a day, but the footage only had to be submitted to the court on a monthly basis, according to lawyers' documents. Security footage showed he simply walked out of the house alone around noon on Dec. 29, NHK TV reported.

Lebanon has said he entered legally with a French passport on Dec. 30. He has not been seen since, but has promised to speak to reporters on Wednesday.