TOKYO (Reuters) - Former Nissan (7201.T) and Renault (RENA.PA) boss Carlos Ghosn began his astonishing escape from Japan with a bullet train ride from Tokyo to Osaka, possibly accompanied by several people, Japanese news agency Kyodo reported Monday.
Japanese authorities also said on Monday they may still press for Ghosn’s extradition from Lebanon to face multiple charges of financial wrongdoing, even though the country does not normally extradite its nationals.
Security cameras captured Ghosn leaving his home on Dec. 29 at about 2:30 p.m. (0530 GMT) and arriving some hours later at Tokyo’s Shinagawa Station, where he took the train to Shin Osaka Station, Kyodo said, citing a person familiar with the matter.
The international fugitive then went by car to a hotel near Osaka’s Kansai International Airport, where he boarded a private jet at 11:10 p.m., according to the media report.
Ghosn was forbidden from leaving Japan while awaiting trial on charges of financial misconduct, which he has denied, but he fled at the end of last year to escape what he called a “rigged” justice system.
Prosecutors are now working with police to piece together Ghosn’s route and find out who helped him, Kyodo said.
In the government’s first briefing since Ghosn skipped bail, Justice Minister Masako Mori said on Monday that as a general principle, Tokyo could request the extradition of a suspect from a country with which it has no formal extradition agreement.
Such a request would need to be carefully examined based on the possibility of “guaranteeing reciprocity and the domestic law of the partner country”, Mori told reporters in Tokyo.
Mori did not say what would guarantee reciprocity - the idea that benefits or penalties extended by one country to citizens of another should be reciprocated. She also did not say if there were any Lebanese nationals in Japan wanted in Lebanon.
According to a Lebanese judicial source, Lebanon has yet to receive a formal notice from Interpol requesting Ghosn’s arrest and will not take any steps until it does.
The source said on Monday that the so-called red notice it received last week had been sent directly from Japan rather than via Interpol’s headquarters in Lyon, France.
“There are questions in Wiesbaden and Lyon over the legality of sending the notification directly from Tokyo to Lebanon without passing through Interpol headquarters,” the source said, referring to Interpol offices.
When Lebanon has received red notices in the past, suspects have not been detained but their passports have been confiscated and bail has been set, a judicial source said last week.
Mori offered little insight into the events of Ghosn’s escape to his ancestral home, repeatedly saying she could not comment on specifics because of an ongoing investigation.
Japanese officials broke days of silence about the Ghosn case on Sunday, saying they would tighten immigration measures and investigate his escape thoroughly. The authorities have also issued an international notice for his arrest.
Mori also defended Japan’s justice system against Ghosn’s charges that it was “rigged” and discriminatory.
In Japan, suspects who deny charges against them are often detained for long periods and subject to lengthy questioning without a lawyer present, a system critics call “hostage justice”.
“Various comments about Japan’s justice system and this unjust departure are two different things,” Mori told reporters, saying criticism of the justice system could not be used to justify Ghosn’s escape.
“Departure in an unjust way without proper procedure is tantamount to smuggling, an illegal departure amounting to a crime.”
Reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka and Kevin Buckland; Additional reporting by Laila Bassam in Beirut; Writing by David Dolan and Eric Knecht; Editing by Christopher Cushing and David Clarke