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Free Carlos Ghosn

In other low probability news, Carlos Ghosn has escaped from house arrest in Japan, possibly in a cello double bass case.

Mr Ghosn strikes quite the Randian hero. Grandson of a Lebanese entrepreneur living in Brazil with a Nigerian mother, he moved to France to study and then moved his way up the ranks in Michelin tyre factories. After 3 years there he was a plant manager. After 18 years he was CEO of Michelin North America. Then he went to work at post-privatisation Renault and made it profitable. He took on roles at Nissan, too, an by 2005 he was CEO of both Renault and Nissan. In 2016 he became chairman of Mitsubishi too.

Maybe he upset someone at Nissan because they reported him to the Japanese government for under-reporting his compensation to the Japanese government. Now he is “suspected of masterminding a long-running scheme to mislead financial authorities”, the worst possible crime in the view of authorities but considered not at all immoral in these parts. He has also generally been attracting the ire of people who do not like it when other people earn a lot of money.

“In 2016, Emmanuel Macron, the French president, who was at the time the finance minister, pressured Renault into reducing Mr. Ghosn’s compensation.”

I mean, what the fuck? Fuck off Macron.

“His own pay far outstripped those of his counterparts in Japan — he earned four times the pay of Toyota’s chairman in 2017 — and he was unrepentant.”

That is definitely Randian hero territory. They want you to repent. But never repent! It will not help you.

Ghosn says it was all plot and treason by Nissan executives who did not want him to integrate Nissan, Mitsubishi and Renault. One problem is that once Japanese authorities decide to prosecute, they nearly always get a conviction. Running away was probably his only option.

But it is hard to escape from the World Government. Interpol want him, Turkish authorities arrested pilots who helped him escape, and now the Lebanese authorities are hauling him in front of judges. It remains to be seen how helpful they will be. There is no extradition deal between Lebanon and Japan.

22 comments to Free Carlos Ghosn

  • bobby b

    If someone could quickly fabricate a few thousand “Who Is Carlos Ghosn?” bumper stickers and T-shirts and get them out for sale on the net, they’ll do well.

  • Julie near Chicago

    People will confuse him with Carlos Slim and “Carlos” Ilich Ramirez, a.k.a. “The Jackal” (after the Frederick Forsyth thriller, which was pretty good, except — oops, almost did the spoiler thing).

    She said, darkly.


    By the way. Who was this “John Galt,” anyway? I see a lot of him on the Interwebz, assuming all the variants are the same guy. ❓

  • Nico

    @JnC: John Galt? The hero of Atlas Shrugged, a terrible novel by the terrible novelist and amateur philosopher, Ayn Rand. The novel does a fantastic job of showing how an industrial society can fall apart once collectivism sets in, but other than that, it’s trash.

  • Julie near Chicago


    I was just kidding. I happen to be a big fan of Atlas Shrugged, which I first read in the early ’60s. I last re-read it in fall a year ago, IIRC. And still enjoyed it.

    I think we’ll just have to live with disagreeing about Atlas and Miss R. But I can stand it if you can. :>))

    Also, Happy 2020! 😀

  • James Strong

    Carlos Ghosn: did he receive his pay honestly or did he steal some of what he received by putting in false returns?

    If the former – then well done to him, however many millions he got.

    If he was on the fiddle – treat him like anyone else who puts in false declarations, and do not lionise him.

  • bobby b

    ” . . . did he receive his pay honestly or did he steal some of what he received by putting in false returns?”

    They don’t have to be contradictory.

    He could easily have:

    a) received all of his humongous pay honestly, pursuant to his contract; and

    b) under-reported that pay to the Japan taxing authorities and then paid less tax than he should have.

    The company people are getting all bent out of shape, but they actually lost nothing, except, I’m sure, for their seething and sincere personal anger that someone paid Too Little Tax!

    (I’m surprised a guy like him let himself get mousetrapped like this.)

  • Bruce Hoult

    His wife sounds very resourceful also.

  • john in cheshire

    There’s a money making opportunity here for him. Carlos Ghosn merchandise:
    False beards
    Double bass cases ( with the option of a cello case for John Bercow types).

  • Mr Ed

    I doubt that he used a ‘cello case, perhaps a Sousaphone or, for a bit of class, a theorbo case.

  • Rob Fisher (Surrey)

    Bobby b, that’s what I’m assuming. Stealing from shareholders would be something else.

    I fixed the musical instrument confusion.

  • Rudolph Hucker

    Can’t quite put my finger on it, but this reminds me of someone famous who escaped from Greece in an orange crate.

  • Mr Ed

    It’s almost a photographic negative of the Umaru Dikko case from 1984, an exiled Nigerian politician kidnapped in London by gentlemen from a certain Levantine country and found drugged in a crate at Stansted airport awaiting loading on to a jet home, when UK Customs Officers opened the crate and had some questions for his companions. Note that Nigeria ‘retaliated’ by framing two British engineers on trumped-up charges.

    Looking at it in the round, Mr Ghosn appears to have had no chance of a fair trial in Japan, and even if he had committed some offence, better that he go free and expose the rotten side of Japan, its criminal justice system, which seems to make the US Federal Justice system seem a rules-based Elysium.

    UK lawyers may appreciate a new ‘Ghosn’ test for dishonesty, how readily can an accused skip bail? A dire pun which I won’t bother to explain.

    And it’s one in the eye for the country that gave us ‘Pearl Harbor’.

  • bobby b

    “Looking at it in the round, Mr Ghosn appears to have had no chance of a fair trial in Japan”

    I like a good John Galt story as much as the next mouth-foaming Randian, and I have to admire Ghosn in many ways, but was he worried about getting a fair trial, or was he . . . um . . . worried that his trial was going to be fair? 😛

    The biggest negative take on the Japanese crim-justice system seems to mostly be that the prosecutors don’t move unless they can guarantee themselves a win. That’s not the same as “they beat fake confessions out of everyone, even the innocent.”

    My guess is that they nailed Ghosn cold, and Ghosn knew that he was destined for a long involuntary stay.

    The whole Robin Hood flavor of the situation is derived from the fact that Ghosn screwed over the tax people (!) and is further fed by the seemingly dishonorable ratting-out of Ghosn by ambitious underlings and malicious rivals, and it still surprises me that someone like him would get careless enough to be felled by midgets, but I’d guess that even kings can forget to lock their doors.

  • Snorri Godhi

    Can’t quite put my finger on it, but this reminds me of someone famous who escaped from Greece in an orange crate.

    Don’t know about Greece, but there was the case of Grotius escaping a rather luxurious imprisonment in the Netherlands by hiding in a crate supposedly full of books.

    And then there was the case of Herbert Kappler, which caused quite a stir in Italy at the time. Although i suppose that it has been largely forgotten by now.

  • bobby b

    “A dire pun which I won’t bother to explain.”

    Even if we ask nicely?

  • Surely the nearest equivalent would be Asil Nadir’s flight from British justice which involved similar aspects (although that was out and out investment fraud by Nadir)

    Nadir was prosecuted on various counts of theft and fraud, amounting to 66 charges, but failed to appear at the trial in 1993 having travelled to the unrecognised Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, which has no extradition treaty with the United Kingdom, where he resided until 2010.

    Although a UK arrest warrant was subsequently issued for his breach of bail, it was not valid due to procedural reasons. In a 2003 interview with the BBC, Nadir vowed to return to the UK to attempt to clear his name. However, he said that he was fearful of the consequences to his health and refused to go back until the British government agreed to give him bail and not remand him in prison until his trial. On 26 August 2010, having provided bail of £250,000 and secured an agreement to not be remanded in prison until his trial, he returned to the UK.

    Peter Dimond, the pilot who flew Nadir out of the UK from Compton Abbas Airfield in a twin-engined private plane, was jailed for two years in August 1998 for committing an act intended to pervert the course of justice, but he was freed by the Court of Appeal in January 1999 when it quashed the conviction after it was discovered that Nadir was not technically on bail at the time of his escape as his bail had lapsed.

    On 30 July 2010 it was reported that a British judge had granted Nadir bail, which it was said would pave the way for him to return to the UK to face trial.

    On 26 August 2010, Nadir returned to the UK with his wife Nur in a private Boeing 737 aircraft, leased from Onur Airlines, to face trial. His bail conditions included the £250,000 bail surety already paid to the court, surrendering his passport, wearing an electronic tag, reporting to a police station once a week, and being prohibited from going near any airport. He appeared at the Old Bailey on 3 September 2010 to comply with bail conditions. Nadir stayed in a £20,000-a-month rented house. Owing to the complexity of the allegations, his trial did not begin until 23 January 2012.

    On 22 August 2012, Asil Nadir was found guilty on ten counts of theft of nearly £29m from Polly Peck. The jury found him not guilty on three counts. The jury had been advised at the start of the trial that the 13 were specimen charges and the overall amount allegedly stolen was about £146m. He was sentenced to ten years’ imprisonment.

    In April 2016, Asil Nadir was transferred to a Turkish prison. A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: “It is right that foreign criminals are properly punished but not at the expense of British taxpayers. This government is committed to removing foreign criminals to their own countries. Since Asil Nadir has now repaid the £2 million he owed the Legal Aid Agency, plus £5 million in compensation he paid earlier, arrangements were made with the Turkish government for his removal as part of the Prisoner Transfer Agreement.”

    Once back in Turkey, Nadir was only held for one day in prison before being released.

  • Paul Marks

    If I remember correctly most of Ayn’s Rand’s heroes were either owner-managers (rather than hired ones) or people who directly created things with their own hands – even if they were just “ordinary” workmen (as long as they did a good job).

    I do not agree that Atlas Shrugged was “trash” – but tastes in literature differ.

    In Japan I am told it is considered very rude to plead innocent (the culture in Japan is very distinct) – but it does sometimes happen.

  • In Japan I am told it is considered very rude to plead innocent (the culture in Japan is very distinct) – but it does sometimes happen.

    I doubt that “innocent” really describes the practices that were in place, more a case of the salary that Carlos Ghosn could expect in the West outside of Japan couldn’t be justified inside Japan so a “dodgy deal” was cut so that the public salary paid to Ghosn was “acceptable” and the difference was paid through funds transferred to a subsidiary in Dubai from which Ghosn received a “commission”.

    Even in the best possible light it looks like tax evasion and fraudulent corporate reporting, if nothing else.

    When others within the Japanese power structure wanted to get rid of Ghosn they simply pretended that this “dodgy deal” was the sole preserve of Ghosn himself and they were on the side of the gods for having reported this to the Japanese authorities.

    I doubt that anyone on either side wants the real story to come out, but suspect that Ghosn’s version of it is closer to the truth than that of the “untainted” Japanese management of Nissan / Mitsubishi. Presumably they thought by effectively performing a corporate version of entrapment Japanese-style they thought they could get the better of Ghosn, but that might prove a little difficult now that he’s absconded back to Lebanon.

    I don’t see any winners in this, just corrupt business practices blowing up on themselves.

  • Mr Ed

    bobby b.

    As you are a lawyer, and a good chap (now there’s a rare turn of phrase), my pun was derived from English law’s ‘Ghosh’ test for dishonesty, basically how to determine if someone’s actions are to be regarded as with the necessary mens rea for an offence involving dishonesty.

  • Jacob

    Mr Ghosn – going to work in Japan (in a Japanese company) – should have accepted Japanese rules and norms concerning amounts of compensation. If they didn’t suit him he should have refused the job.

    Seems he engaged in some crooked dealings – just for greed. It’s not the case that he was a pauper and needed the gig in Japan for survival.

  • Mr Ghosn – going to work in Japan (in a Japanese company) – should have accepted Japanese rules and norms concerning amounts of compensation. If they didn’t suit him he should have refused the job.

    It is alleged (though it is far from proven) that the Japanese senior management understood the problem beforehand and were complicit in the fraudulent remuneration scheme being undertaken to present a “normal Japanese CEO remuneration” when the reality is very different.

    I’m not saying that Ghosn wasn’t a fool for accepting the job under those fraudulent conditions (he was), but I don’t believe that Ghosn was the only guilty party. The trial seemed to be a way of getting rid of (and silencing) Ghosn without implicating themselves in their conspiracy to mislead investors.

    Though, who knows if the truth will ever come out.

  • Jacob

    May I venture a guess: the Japanese government is probably relieved by Ghosn’s escape. They wanted to get rid of him, not lock him up and have the dirty laundry aired in a public trial. Mission accomplished. Quite possible that they staged this whole dramatic escape. Suits all involved.