A court in Turkey has sentenced two pilots to four years in jail after they were found guilty of helping former Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn escape Japan. An official from a private airline was also convicted. Ghosn skipped bail while awaiting trial in December 2019 and was smuggled to Beirut, allegedly inside a large box.
Three jailed for Ghosn escape
Following a court hearing in Istanbul this week, three employees of a Turkish private airline have been found guilty of involvement in smuggling former Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn out of Japan. The dramatic escape, in December 2019, allegedly involved two separate flights and Ghosn being concealed inside a large box.
Ghosn was arrested in Tokyo in 2018 following allegations of financial misconduct and was awaiting trial. He skipped bail in 2019, and was flown from Osaka to Istanbul on a private plane. He was then transferred to another plane to Beirut, where he arrived on December 30th. Lebanon, which is Ghosn’s childhood home, does not have an extradition treaty with Japan.
MNG Jet operates business jets on a charter basis for VIP and cargo operations. AIN Online confirmed that the jets involved in the Ghosn escape were a Bombardier Global 6000 (tail number TC-TSR) and Bombardier Challenger 300 (TC-RZA).
— Dan B (@idannyb) May 1, 2019
The two pilots, named as Noyan Pasin and Bahri Kutlu Somek, denied any involvement in the operation. Along with two other pilots and two flight attendants, they maintained their innocence throughout the trial. An executive of the company, MNG Jet, named as Okan Kosemen, said he was only made aware of Ghosn’s presence on the flight after it had landed in Istanbul.
— tolgaozbekcom (@tolgaozbek_com) January 13, 2018
However, Kosemen admitted that, once aware Ghosn had arrived in Turkey, he did help smuggle the Nissan chief onto a second plane bound for Lebanon. He did say that threats were made to himself and his family, and that he feared for his personal safety.
The court acquitted the four other employees of any involvement. The two pilots and the MNG Jet executive face four years and two months in jail on human smuggling charges. They have already served six months in pre-trial detention.
Expected to appeal
The pilots are expected to appeal their conviction, according to reporting in the Financial Times. Noyan Pasin, who piloted the flight from Osaka to Istanbul, claims that the conviction is nothing more than a ruse to save face and avoid a diplomatic incident. He maintains that he did not know Ghosn was in the cargo area of the plane. He told the Financial Times,
“We are the only ones in the world who have been blamed and convicted in connection with [Ghosn’s escape]. No one working security, customs or immigration at the Japanese airport has been tried. While Ghosn is comfortably living his life in Beirut . . . my life has been totally disrupted.”
Ghosn served at the helm of auto firm Nissan for 20 years but is wanted on charges of breach of trust. It is alleged that he misused company assets for his own personal gain, and that he violated securities laws by not revealing the compensation he received. To date, he has maintained that he only fled because he feared a fair trial would not be possible in Japan.