. Fears Grip Japanese Auto Dealers In Nigeria as Crisis Persists
By Hamilton Nwosa with agency report
These are not the best of times for auto company giants, namely Renault and Nissan-Mitsubishi which formed Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance. The group’s former chairman, Mr Carlos Ghosn, who was axed last year for alleged financial misconduct, has fled house detention in Japan in a commando-like style akin to a make-believe Hollywood movie actor. This development has created panic, fears among local Nissan, Mitsubishi dealers in Nigeria who fear possible backlash arising from corporate reputational distress Japanese auto brands generally sell like hot- cakes in Nigeria.
Mr Ghosn, who is said to hold three international passports as a citizen of France, Brazil and Lebanon allegedly escaped from house detention in Tokyo hiding in a musical instrument brief case, with the help of a music band that went to perform in his detention centre. Mr Gbosn, chairman of the biggest strategic French-Japanese auto alliance, which he forged to help position Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi group into a global automobile czar, has been facing allegations of financial misconduct. His escape to Lebanon was said to have been aided by his wife, Carole and his Lebanese allies.
According to agency reports, Gbosn’s escape was clinically plotted, and expertly executed. Reports indicate that his escape began as soon as the musical band arrived at his home in Tokyo, where he has been held under house arrest and strict police surveillance. “At the end of the performance, as the musicians packed up their instruments, Ghosn apparently slipped into one of the larger cases and was taken to a small local airport”, news reports revealed.
Mr Ghosn obviously is one of the biggest personalities in the global car industry before his arrest for alleged unethical conducts had brokered an alliance between France’s Renault and Japan’s Nissan and Mitsubishi Motors – he was chair of Nissan as well as CEO and chair of Renault- Mitsubishi, respectively. This gave birth to the famous Renault- Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance or partnership which he fostered. In his estimation, the move was to help build a more globally competitive group.
But that was how his problems started. In a curious twists and turn of events, Ghosn was arrested by Japanese police on his arrival at a Tokyo airport last November. This was sequel to the earlier arrest of a Nissan board member, Mr Greg Kelly who was described as a key ally of Ghosn. Nissan and Mitsubishi immediately issued a statement in a bid to engage in corporate crisis communications aimed at managing the ensuing emergencies. According to Nissan and Mitsubishi, “they will both remove Ghosn as chairman.” This according to them, was as “a result of Ghosn’s alleged aggravated breach of trust, shifting personal investment losses to Nissan in 2008 and related accusations.” But Ghosn also apparently had his own plans.
According to Agency reports a private jet was “waiting to whisk the former corporate titan (Ghosn) to Istanbul, Turkey. From there he appeared to have boarded a Bombardier Challenger private jet for a flight to Lebanon, where he arrived before dawn on Monday.” The flight path recorded by plane tracking technology shows the jet disappeared from tracking view at about 4.16am, just as it approached Beirut-Rafic Hariri international airport.
However, Mr Ricardo Karam, a Lebanese television host and friend of Ghosn who has reportedly interviewed the auto firm titan several times, confirmed Ghosn’s arrival in Lebanon. “He is home,” Karam said. “It’s a big adventure.” But the news of the dramatic escape came as a shock to Japanese authorities. They wondered how the former Nissan-Renault boss managed to flee Japan, despite heavy security, round-the-clock surveillance and having surrendered all his three passports to the Japanese authorities. He is a citizen of Brazil, France and Lebanon.
Japanese immigration officials said they have no record of Ghosn’s exit from Japan, a situation that has seemingly created some diplomatic puzzles. But Lebanese foreign ministry officials insist that the automobile czar entered Lebanon legally with a French passport and used his Lebanese ID to undergo normal airport security procedures. The French foreign ministry press office however said it had no immediate comment but would get back to the media on the subject matter.
Lebanon has no extradition treaty with Japan, meaning it is most unlikely Ghosn will be extradited to Japan. Lebanon has extradition treaties with only the US and South Korea. Ghosn, who was born in Brazil to Lebanese parents, moved to Lebanon when he was six and lived in the country before moving to Paris for his university education. The Lebanese government has reportedly been very supportive of Ghosn since his first arrest in November 2018, saying the corporate titan represented “one of Lebanon’s success stories abroad”. After his arrest, billboards in Beirut were plastered with the slogan “We are all Carlos Ghosn”.