LONDON: Life on the run is proving expensive for Carlos Ghosn. The cost of his escape included US$14mil in forfeited bail money while the operation that saw him celebrate New Year’s Eve in Beirut could have cost US$15mil or more.
That includes US$350,000 for the private jet that spirited the former auto executive from Osaka to Istanbul and millions of dollars for his multi-country extraction that would have taken a team of as many as 25 people half a year to plan, according to a private security expert who said he wasn’t involved and asked not to be identified given the nature of the operation.
Such outflows have seen Ghosn’s fortune shrink by 40% since he was arrested more than a year ago at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport, according to estimates by the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. His fortune is now calculated to be about US$70mil, down from around US$120mil at the time of his first court appearance a year ago.
In fiery, freewheeling form at a two-and-a-half hour press conference in Beirut on Wednesday, Ghosn, 65, repeatedly proclaimed his innocence against allegations he understated his income and raided corporate resources for personal gain, accused Japanese prosecutors, government officials and Nissan Motor Co executives of conspiring to topple him, and insisted he would clear his name.
“I am used to what you call mission impossible, ” he said in response to questions from the assembled reporters.
“You can expect me in the next weeks to take some initiatives to tell you how I’m going to clear my name.”
That might include a tell-all book. Ghosn plans to publish the story of his arrest, according to a report by Japanese public broadcaster NHK.
His downfall has already seen him lose millions in payouts. Last year, Nissan cancelled retirement and stock-linked compensation and Renault SA said he won’t benefit from a non-compete agreement he signed in 2015 and stock-based payments that were conditional on his staying at the company. Many of the charges against him centre on retirement payments, totaling more than us$140mil, which he hadn’t yet received.
Ghosn’s US law firm, Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison LLP, declined to comment on Bloomberg’s wealth estimates or on the SEC settlement. Ghosn’s Lebanese lawyer also declined to comment.
Nissan is looking at bringing legal action against Ghosn in Lebanon, people familiar with the company’s plans said, to recover money it claims he used improperly.
The carmaker is trying to evict him from the pink villa in Beirut to which he still has access. Nissan purchased it for US$8.75mil, renovated it and furnished it for him, according to a person familiar with the matter.
Authorities may be looking to seize some of his assets.
Bloomberg’s calculation of Ghosn’s net worth assumes none of his assets at the time of his arrest – which included shares in Renault and Nissan now valued at about $60 million – have been seized or sold.
Even if that is the case, the costs that come with being the world’s most famous runaway will continue to be formidable.
Legal bills for fugitive Malaysian financier Jho Low came to US$15mil, according to an October deal with US federal prosecutors. Efforts to burnish Low’s reputation cost US$1.1mil over seven months, according to the New York Times.
Such expenses are likely sizeable enough to pressure even a fortune as large as that of the Ghosn family. Still, some costs may be lower than expected.
The US$350,000 contract for Ghosn’s Osaka to Istanbul flight was to be paid in two tranches. The charter company has so far only received the first half. — Bloomberg
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