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UPDATE 1-Turkish suspect tells court Ghosn mused on Hollywood movie of escape from Japan

Fri 3rd July, 2020 4:03pm
* Ghosn fled Japan while he was awaiting trial
    * Five defendants accused of migrant smuggling
    * Suspects appear in court in protective overalls
    * Executive says learned mid-flight Ghosn was aboard

 (Adds details, testimony, mid-flight call)
    By Ezgi Erkoyun
    ISTANBUL, July 3 (Reuters) - A Turkish jet executive on
trial over Carlos Ghosn's dramatic escape from Japan told a
court on Friday that the former Nissan  7201.T  boss spoke about
Hollywood making a movie of his getaway as he flew in a private
jet to Beirut.   
    Ghosn, once a leading light of the global car industry, was
arrested in Japan in late 2018 and charged with underreporting
his salary and using company funds for personal purposes,
charges he denies. 
    The ousted chairman of the alliance of Renault  RENA.PA ,
Nissan Motor Co and Mitsubishi Motors Corp  7211.T  had been
awaiting his trial under house arrest in Japan when he escaped
in December via Istanbul to Beirut, his childhood home. 
    An executive from Turkish private jet operator MNG Jet and
four pilots were detained in early January soon after Ghosn's
escape and charged with migrant smuggling, a charge carrying a
maximum sentence of eight years in jail.
    They appeared in white protective overalls, masks and gloves
as a measure against the coronavirus, as the court in Istanbul
began hearing their defence. Two flight attendants, charged with
failing to report a crime - which could incur a sentence of up
to one year - were also there. 
    All seven defendants pleaded not guilty to the charges.
    In their indictment, prosecutors had said MNG Jet operations
manager Okan Kosemen - who is one of the seven on trial - knew
before the flight left Osaka that Ghosn would be on board and
would transfer to Beirut. 
    Kosemen said in court on Friday he was only told via phone
about Ghosn's presence on the plane during its flight to
Istanbul and that he cooperated under duress, believing his
family could be in danger.
    Kosemen said a Lebanese broker who had arranged the flight
had told him by phone, from Beirut, that the ex-Nissan boss was
on board. He added that he had heard "screams of joy" in the
    "I swore at him (the broker). I was very angry," he told the
    Kosemen later met the arriving plane at an Istanbul airport,
and accompanied Ghosn on the Beirut-bound flight, he told the
court. "Carlos asked me how much the plane cost ... and told me
about Hollywood producers who want to make this escape a movie,"
he said.
    A lawyer for Ghosn did not immediately respond to a request
to comment.
    The prosecution said Kosemen used WhatsApp to communicate
with pilots before, during and after the Osaka-Istanbul flight,
using terms like "luggage" and "consignment" to refer to Ghosn.
Kosemen told the court "consignment" referred to sake - rice
wine - that he himself had ordered from Japan. 
    According to the indictment, Kosemen told prosecutors a
price of $175,000 was agreed for the flight with the Lebanese
broker and paid into MNG Jet's bank account. 
    In January, MNG Jet said he acted without the knowledge of
the company and it had filed a criminal complaint for the
illegal use of its aircraft. MNG did not immediately respond to
a request for comment. 
    The pilots have said they are only required to check
headcount, not the identities of passengers, according to the
    Japan has formally asked the United States to extradite two
Americans - a former Green Beret and his son - who also stand
accused of helping Ghosn flee Japan. They were arrested in
Massachusetts in May.*:nL1N2E92AK
    The Ghosn saga has shaken the global auto industry, at one
point jeopardising the Renault-Nissan alliance which he
masterminded, and increased scrutiny of Japan's judicial system.
    Renault and Nissan have struggled to recover profitability
following his tenure, during which both automakers say Ghosn
focused too much on expanding sales and market share.
    Turkish police detained the suspects on Jan. 2 and an
interior ministry official was cited at the time as saying
Turkish border police were not notified about Ghosn's arrival,
and neither his entry nor his exit were registered.*:nL8N2970V2

 (Additional reporting by Naomi Tajitsu in Tokyo; Writing by
Daren Butler; Editing by Jonathan Spicer and Pravin Char)
 ((; +90-212-350 7053; Reuters Messaging:
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