TOKYO — The call sign emblazoned on the tail engine was a dead giveaway of the identity of the VIP passenger who had just touched down in the sleek corporate jet at Tokyo's Haneda Airport.
"NI55AN," it read, a clever play on his company's name.
Waiting for Carlos Ghosn on the tarmac was a team of black-suited Japanese investigators. And an Asahi media group reporter, who just happened to capture what the paper claims is video of the suits climbing aboard to inform the high-flying corporate chieftain that they'd like to have a few words.
Almost immediately, the plane's window shades automatically lower to hide what happens next.
The imagery, replayed repeatedly here in the days since, chronicled the beginning of the end for the man credited with saving the country's second-biggest automaker and generally regarded as one of the global auto industry's leading luminaries. By dinnertime that night, Nov. 19, Asahi had scooped the nation with the shocking news that Nissan Motor Co. Chairman Carlos Ghosn was to be arrested.
Soon, too, was American board member Greg Kelly, whom Nissan now brands a "mastermind" behind Ghosn's alleged misdeeds, from under-reporting income to misusing company assets. Within three days, Nissan's board had voted to remove Ghosn as chairman and strip both men of their status as representative directors.
Japanese prosecutors are notoriously tight-lipped. A Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office spokesman issued a terse "no comment on anything" when asked to confirm even basic details.
But a steady drip of information is nonetheless leaking to the local press.
It indicated that both Ghosn and Kelly were being held at a detention center in northern Tokyo, where — under Japanese law — they can be detained and questioned for up to 20 days before being formally charged. Television stakeouts have captured what the media say are diplomatic vehicles from French and American embassies, rolling in with legal advice for the detainees.
The scandal easily eclipses the last time Tokyo saw anything like this — when Toyota's newly appointed chief communications officer, Julie Hamp, became the most recent foreign automotive executive hauled in by police. Prosecutors picked her up in 2015 on suspicion of illegally importing painkillers.
Hamp held tight for 20 days in jail before being released without any charges. She was immediately deported, on top of being fired by Toyota.