Two private security operatives helped Carlos Ghosn, the former chief of the Nissan-Renault auto alliance charged with financial misconduct, escape from Japan to Lebanon by pretending to be part of a music band for a Christmas party held at his Tokyo residence, a long-time friend said Thursday.
Ghosn, who was on bail, hid in a musical instrument case and was taken to an airport, later escaping on a private jet, Imad Ajami, a Lebanese consultant based in Tokyo, told Kyodo News over the phone.
Of the two operatives, one was a former U.S. Marine who works for an American security firm and the other was an employee of a Lebanese security firm, said Ajami, who saw Ghosn while he was under detention in Japan.
The claims emerged as the Japanese government asked the International Criminal Police Organization to request the Lebanese government to detain the 65-year-old former Nissan Motor Co. chairman.
Lebanese judicial authorities said they have received an Interpol arrest warrant for Ghosn. Lebanon does not have an extradition agreement with Japan, meaning Ghosn will not be handed over to Tokyo without Beirut's approval.
Earlier Thursday, Tokyo prosecutors searched Ghosn's home to determine how he fled to Lebanon to escape what he claimed is a "rigged" justice system.
Ajami said he obtained the information from people very close to Ghosn after he departed Japan from an airport that was "neither Narita nor Haneda," the two major airports in the Tokyo metropolitan area, to Istanbul en route to Lebanon.
Meanwhile, Turkish police have detained seven people, including pilots and airport employees, for failing to follow necessary procedures with regard to Ghosn's transit in Istanbul, Lebanese commercial broadcaster NTV reported.
Foreign media have reported Ghosn, who holds Brazilian, French and Lebanese nationality, plans to hold a press conference next Wednesday.
Ghosn is accused of underreporting his pay for years and misappropriating Nissan funds, charges he denies. Under the conditions of his bail, he was not allowed to leave Japan.
Referring to the Christmas party in Tokyo around Dec. 29, Ajami said no one in the band except for the two operatives knew about Ghosn's escape plan.
A truck carried the case with Ghosn inside to the Japanese airport, and two private jets chartered from a company in Dubai were likely used to get him from Japan to Lebanon, the consultant said, without elaborating on the sources of his information.
The Japanese transport ministry's Kansai International Airport office said earlier a private jet left the airport in Osaka Prefecture for Istanbul on Sunday.
Ghosn may have evaded security checks at the airport by having his helpers hurry airport employees, Ajami said, as investigators were puzzled about how he could get through immigration and customs inspections.
Ajami said Ghosn's wife Carole cooperated with the escape plan, and that the couple appear to have reunited in Istanbul.
Ghosn, however, released a statement through a representative that he arranged the escape without assistance from his wife or any other members of his family.
"There has been speculation in the media that my wife Carole, and other members of my family played a role in my departure from Japan. All such speculation is inaccurate and false. I alone arranged for my departure," he said.
In a related development, a source familiar with the plan revealed that Ghosn possessed two French passports and was allowed by a Tokyo court to keep one in a locked case.
Initially, Ghosn's defense lawyers kept all four of his passports -- two French, one Lebanese and one Brazilian.
But after he was released on bail, the need arose for Ghosn to carry a passport. The Tokyo District Court changed the bail conditions and allowed him to carry one of the French passports in a locked case.
The lawyers retained the three other passports as well as the key to the case, according to the source.
Foreign media reports have said Ghosn traveled on a private plane and entered Lebanon using a French passport.