Did lawyers help Carlos Ghosn escape? Or did a loophole in Japanese system save him?

The crucial question is why was Ghosn allowed to carry a spare French passport during his house arrest.

Ever since ex-Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn's escape from house arrest in Japan, many theories have been offered to explain the mystery surrounding the filmi-style breakout. If one of the latest revelations are to be believed, the auto tycoon's Japanese lawyers might have facilitated the escape.

Japanese broadcaster NHK reported that the authorities had allowed Ghosn to carry a spare French passport after he was released on bail. Ghosn was supposed to keep the spare passport in a locked case and the keys should have been kept by the lawyers. A major escape theory now circles around this French passport.

Carole Ghosn
Carole Ghosn and Carlos Ghosn

Lebanon says Ghosn arrived in the country legally

Earlier reports had said that Ghosn was smuggled inside a large musical instrument box and ferried from Japan to Turkey and from there to Lebanon inside a private plane. The reports had also said Ghosn's wife Carole Ghosn had played a decisive role in the dramatic escape of the ousted auto executive. However, Carole rubbished the theory of escape in music instrument box, terming it 'fiction.'

Meanwhile, Lebanese authorities had maintained from day one onwards that Ghosn arrived in the country legally. If he entered legally he would have carried a valid passport. It was clear that the Japanese prosecutors had confiscated his Lebanese and Brazilian passports following his arrest. Ghosn, who was born in Brazil and raised in Lebanon, has Lebanese, Brazilian and French citizenship.

French daily Les Echos reported on Tuesday that Ghosn might have traveled out of Japan using a forged passport and donning a false identity. Emplaning from a smaller airport would have helped him avoid detection, the paper said. Meanwhile, Britain's Guardian newspaper said Lebanese political leaders had instructed officials not to press arrival formalities in Ghosn's case.

Carlos Ghosn, Chairman of Nissan
Carlos Ghosn, Chairman of Nissan Nissan

Ghosn was 'obliged' to carry spare French passport with him

However, the latest report by NHK offers a fresh perspective to the vexing case. The broadcaster cites unidentified sources to say that Ghosn had been issued a spare French passport and that he was carrying it in the months before his abrupt exit from Japan.

So why was he allowed to carry a spare but valid French passport? The report says that Ghosn was "obliged" to carry the passport with him. Reuters threw some light into the context by explaining that foreigners in Japan are required to carry 'government-issued identification cards or passports at all times.'

This clause might have finally helped Ghosn escape the Japanese legal system, which he decried as rigged and unfair. NHK further reports that the key for the locked case that contains the spare passport was with Ghosn's lawyers. However, Ghosn's lawyers had expressed dismay over the dramatic escape of their client on Monday.

Charges against Ghosn

The main charge against Ghosn is that he underreported roughly 9.1 billion yen ($83 million) in compensation. He was also indicted on charges that he made a Nissan subsidiary in the United Arab Emirates pay $10 million to a distributor in Oman. Yet another charge is that he had $5 million of this amount transferred to a savings account at a Lebanese investment firm. Ghosn'a supporters believe that he would not get a fair trial in Japan, where conviction rates nearly 100 percent.

Ghosn had alleged that the charges against him were cooked up and were part of a personal vendetta. He said his arrest was the result of a boardroom coup and that his former Nissan colleagues wanted to derail the automaker's closer ties with Renault.