While the pro-audio world loves a nice road case, it’s a safe bet that beleaguered ex-Nissan head Carlos Ghosn loves them even more. In late December, the auto industry player, facing extensive charges of financial impropriety in Japan, jumped bail and, in a plan straight out of a Mission: Impossible film, was smuggled out of the country inside a road case that the news media characterized as “a box used to carry concert equipment” (some early reports mistakenly reported a double-bass case was used).
Facing allegations that he had under-reported his substantial income for years, embezzled $5 million from Nissan and more, the CEO was awaiting trial and was not allowed to leave the country. According to reports, a team of 10-15 ex-special forces soldiers devised and carried out a plan where Ghosn left his Tokyo residence on foot, carrying a French passport. After boarding a train to Osaka, Ghosn took a taxi to a hotel, where it is believed he climbed into the road case, which had holes drilled into the bottom to allow him to breathe.
The case was then taken to Kansai International Airport in Osaka, one of 10 airports that the team had staked out, which was ultimately chosen for its low foot traffic, comparatively lax security and x-ray machines that could not handle large items. Members of the team, dressed as concert crewmembers, rolled two road cases—one carrying a loudspeaker, the other containing Ghosn—through security. The boxes were never examined, and soon Ghosn was loaded on to a Turkish private jet headed to Istanbul. Once the plane was over Russian airspace, Ghosn exited the case and upon landing, he and the team drove 100 yards to a second private jet that took them to Beirut, Lebanon, where the CEO has a residence. Lebanon reportedly does not currently have an extradition treaty with Japan.
Evading the law is serious business, but an unexpected side effect was a tweeted commentary from Yamaha that went viral. Alluding to the incident, the company’s post essentially suggested “Don’t try this at home.”
— ヤマハ・ウインドストリーム (@Yamaha_Wind_jp) January 12, 2020
“I will not mention the reason, but many tweets have been going around about people entering large instrument cases. It’s too late to warn you after an unfortunate accident, so be careful not to do this or let people around you do it.”
Quickly, the good advice went viral, racking up 86,000 likes and 54,000 retweets. Yamaha followed up with a further, perhaps winking, acknowledgement:
“It is a tweet that was just muttered in a matter of course, but thank you for spreading it with many likes and retweets. I am very surprised. Musical instrument and audio equipment cases are designed to hold musical instruments and audio equipment. Please use them correctly.”
It’s almost surprising that the team got the road cases through security by posing as a concert production crew. It wasn’t long ago that such a group would have garnered extra attention from the authorities, as U2 system engineer Jo Ravitch recounted to me in 2001 for a Pro Sound News story on touring in the wake of 9/11: “Obviously, rock bands fly everywhere on a one-way ticket and that’s one of the things that sets off the so-called ‘random’ un-random search. One day, there were 42 of us trying to fly from Philadelphia to Austin, Texas—the whole U2 crew—and they pulled every single one of us aside! Of course, they were trying to get the plane off the gate, and the two poor little screeners, they were terrified: ‘Oh my God! We’ve got so much to do; this is awful.’ I said, ‘Well, I’m with you there.’”
These days, there are plenty of things you can do to speed up going through airport security—enrolling in TSA Pre and so on—but smuggling yourself in a road case still isn’t one of them.