TOKYO — Carlos Ghosn was sent to jail almost four months ago as a dapper, cosmopolitan businessman known for his fine-tailored suits and immaculately coiffed jet-black mane. He came out last week disguised behind glasses and a surgical mask and dressed in humble worker gear with reflective orange safety strips.
Though he has fallen far from grace — some believe he was pushed — the fate of the ousted chairman of Nissan, Renault and Mitsubishi continues to capture the world's fascination. As the public witnessed last week, that is especially true in Japan, where Ghosn was once portrayed as a sort of foreign superhero, with his own action comic book.
Outside the Tokyo Detention House, as Ghosn prepared to walk onto the streets after coming up, on short notice, with $8.9 million in bail — one of the highest bail amounts in Japanese history — a media melee swirled.
Then the cloak and dagger began.
To offer the indicted auto executive a modicum of privacy from the press as he set off for court-approved housing here, Ghosn walked past a stately black vehicle packed with his belongings to be whisked away in a pint-size Suzuki commercial van with a work ladder on top.
The ruse worked on the waiting TV crews and photographers — but only for a moment.
A fleet of whining motorbikes was soon chasing his comically compact vehicle through the Tokyo streets. A swarm of helicopters circled above, tracking his movements. One of Ghosn's first stops was his lawyer's office, where yet more TV cameras were lying in wait.
By then, he had peeled off the blue worker's hat, eyeglasses and surgical mask that had been part of the smokescreen. And the clearly relieved Ghosn finally cracked a smile. But he looked thinner, and his now-graying hair seemed to cover less of the dome below.
Afterward, TV crews traced Ghosn in a departing Toyota Alphard van to the underground parking of the Conrad Tokyo hotel. A few hours later, in another apparent attempt to throw the press off Ghosn's trail, five identical Alphards emerged from the garage in unison, then split into different directions.