Carlos Ghosn joins ranks of big-time white-collar fugitives

Ex-Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn was arrested in November over alleged financial misconduct. (Reuters pic)

HONG KONG: Carlos Ghosn’s stunning escape from Japan makes him one of the most famous white-collar fugitives in recent years, joining the likes of Malaysian businessman Jho Low and Indian tycoon Vijay Mallya.

The former head of Nissan Motor Co and Renault SA, who was facing trial for financial crimes, defended his move to Lebanon by saying in a statement he’ll “no longer be held hostage by a rigged Japanese justice system”.

It’s unclear how Ghosn escaped as he’s been under house arrest and close surveillance since being granted bail in April following his initial arrest in November 2018.

He’s a citizen of Lebanon, which doesn’t have an extradition treaty with Japan, and is held in high esteem there. He also holds Brazilian and French citizenship.

Ghosn’s lawyer Junichiro Hironaka said his legal team has all of his passports, adding that it’s likely he entered his ancestral home country using a different name.

Here’s a look at some high-profile fugitives from the business world in recent years.

 

Jho Low

Malaysia is still trying to bring in Low Taek Jho, known as Jho Low, the alleged mastermind behind the siphoning of billions of dollars from state-owned investment fund 1MDB. The scandal led to Prime Minister Najib Razak losing a 2018 election, ending 61 years of his party’s rule, and has entangled individuals and businesses far and wide, including Goldman Sachs Group Inc. Jho Low has denied wrongdoing and said that he wouldn’t get a fair trial in Malaysia.

Malaysian authorities last week complained about a lack of cooperation from other countries in their search for Jho Low. In September, Inspector-General Abdul Hamid Bador said the financier was in a jurisdiction that has an extradition treaty with Malaysia and talks were being held with a party suspected of protecting him.

Marc Rich

The commodities trader fled to Switzerland hours before being indicted in 1983 on more than 50 counts of wire fraud, racketeering, trading with Iran during an embargo, and evading more than US$48 million in US income taxes.

The charges stemmed from a multimillion-dollar chain of US crude-oil deals that roiled the global petroleum industry in the early 1980s.

The businessman was celebrated for inventing the spot-oil market before becoming one of the most wanted white-collar fugitives in American history for 17 years. After leaving the US, he founded a commodities trading company that became the forerunner of today’s Glencore Plc.

On the last day of his presidency in January 2001, Bill Clinton pardoned Rich, who repeatedly maintained his innocence. Rich died in 2013.

Christopher Skase

The entrepreneur died in Majorca in 2001, a decade after fleeing Australia as his media and hotel empire Qintex Australia Ltd collapsed. The businesses included Seven Network Australia Ltd, the country’s second-largest television network.

Skase successfully fought bids to extradite him to Australia. An order to expel him was in place but suspended by the Spanish government a month before he died of cancer at the age of 52.

Vijay Mallya

The so-called King of Good Times has been subject to extradition efforts by Indian authorities for years. Mallya is based in London, where this month he was taken to court by a dozen state-owned Indian banks petitioning for him to be declared bankrupt over £1.15 billion in unpaid debts.

Mallya’s business interests stretched from liquor to motor racing to airlines. He was the founder of the now defunct Kingfisher Airlines Ltd.

Nirav Modi

The celebrity jeweller was arrested in London in March for allegedly defrauding Punjab National Bank of US$2 billion. He was denied bail due to “substantial risks” he’d flee the country to avoid extradition to India.