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Carlos Ghosn used a Green Beret to help him escape from Japan

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Former Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn being escorted as he walks out of the Tokyo Detention House following his release on bail in Tokyo on March 6, 2019. STR/AFP/Getty Images

The sophistication and complexity of Carlos Ghosn’s daring escape from Japan was highlighted by reports that the fugitive auto executive employed a former Green Beret, the U.S. special forces soldiers trained in deception and counterinsurgency, to help his undercover operation.

The revelation came as Japan’s Justice Minister came down hard on Mr. Ghosn’s decision to jump bail as he awaited his trial for financial misconduct, and as a small army of international journalists in Lebanon hunted for his whereabouts.

Mr. Ghosn, 65, the former boss of Nissan and Renault and the creator of the world’s only global auto-making alliance, fled from Japan to Beirut on Dec. 30 using a private jet and changing planes in Istanbul. He and his wife, Carole, were photographed at a New Year’s Eve party in Beirut. He has not been seen since.

His Paris public relations agency, Image 7, said Mr. Ghosn plans to hold a news conference in Beirut later this week.

On Sunday afternoon, about a dozen reporters and cameramen, many from Japan, were crowded onto the sidewalk across from his large, traditional house in central Beirut, looking for any sign of Mr. Ghosn or his wife, both of whom have Lebanese citizenship (Mr. Ghosn also has passports from France and Brazil, where he was born).

There was a brief flurry of excitement when the garage doors opened to allow the quick entry of a Toyota SUV, but the darkened windows made it impossible to tell who was inside. “My colleagues saw his wife the other day,” said Keita Miyazaki, a cameraman with TBS, a private Japanese broadcaster. “No one has seen Carlos and we don’t know if he is here. It’s very boring standing here.”

Various local reports said Mr. Ghosn might not be in the house and could be at the vineyard he co-founded in the hills north of Beirut, or at a house owned by Lebanese President Michel Aoun, who warmly greeted him after he reached Beirut a week ago. Lebanon has no extradition agreement with Japan, meaning Mr. Ghosn seems in no danger of being sent back to Japan to face trail even though Interpol as issued a “red notice” for his arrest.

How exactly Mr. Ghosn engineered his escape and how much the caper cost him are still mysteries, though more clues are emerging every day.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Mr. Ghosn took flight with the help of two Americans, one who had been a Green Beret and has substantial experience in hostage crisis situations. He was identified as Michael Taylor, who began his military career as a paratrooper before working undercover for U.S. law enforcement and, later, starting a security firm. Early in the last decade, he and his firm were investigated for contract fraud and money laundering in connection to Pentagon contracts he had secured. He pleaded guilty to wire and honest-services fraud and was sentenced to 24 months in prison.

The New York Times reported that Mr. Taylor, who has a Lebanese wife, and Mr. Ghosn were connected months ago by Lebanese intermediaries, suggesting that Mr. Ghosn’s escape had been in the works for a long time. Mr. Ghosn also reportedly used George Antoine-Zayek, who worked for a variety of security firms, including Mr. Taylor’s. Little is known about him.

The reports, citing flight manifests, said that Mr. Taylor and Mr. Antoine-Zayek accompanied Mr. Ghosn on his first two flights, from Toyko to Osaka, then to Istanbul, but not on his final flight to Beirut.

Mr. Ghosn said after his arrival in Beirut that he was fleeing “injustice” in Japan, whether 99 per cent of those indicted are convicted. The Lebanese authorities said he entered Lebanon on a French passport and Lebanese ID. The French passport was apparently a duplicate. His French, Brazilian and Lebanese passports were surrendered in Japan after his arrest in late 2018 for a variety of alleged crimes, including understating his pay and breach of trust for having Nissan cover his investment losses.

The Japanese authorities said there are no public records of Mr. Ghosn’s departure.

On Sunday, Masako Mori, Japan’s Justice Minister, called Mr. Ghosn’s flight illegal and unjustifiable. “It is believed that he used some wrongful methods to illegally leave the country,” she said. “It is extremely regrettable that we have come to this situation.”

Mr. Ghosn’s escape has come as an embarrassment to the Japanese. He was reportedly able to walk out of his apartment undetected wearing a hat and face mask in spite of round-the-clock surveillance. Mr. Ghosn said that his wife had nothing to do with his flight. His strict bail conditions forbade him from seeing her.

Although Mr. Ghosn has a French passport, it seems unlikely he will visit France any time soon. That’s because French police are probing the circumstances under which he was allowed to use the Palace of Versailles for his lavish Marie Antoinette-themed marriage to Carole in 2016.

 

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Annual inflation rate up 0.5% in September – CityNews Toronto

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Statistics Canada says its consumer price index in September was up 0.5 per cent compared with a year ago.

The reading compared with a year-over-year increase of 0.1 per cent in August.

Economists on average had expected a year-over-year increase of 0.4 per cent, according to financial data firm Refinitiv.

The statistics agency says that prices were up in six of the eight components of the inflation tracker, including increases in tuition fees as students headed back to school.

The agency also says the back-to-school shopping season wasn’t as big as it was one year ago, noted by a year-over-year drop of 4.1 per cent in clothing and footwear prices.

Statistics Canada says the consumer price index would have increased by 1.0 per cent in September had a 10.7 per cent year-over-year drop in the price of gasoline not been factored in.

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Cathay Pacific to cut 5,900 jobs, end Cathay Dragon brand due to pandemic – Reuters

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SYDNEY (Reuters) – Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd said on Wednesday it would slash 5,900 jobs and end its regional Cathay Dragon brand, joining peers in cutting costs as it grapples with a plunge in demand due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The airline would also seek changes in conditions in its contracts with cabin crew and pilots as part of a restructuring that would cost HK$2.2 billion ($283.9 million).

Overall, it will cut 8,500 positions, or 24% of its normal headcount, but that includes 2,600 roles currently unfilled due to cost reduction initiatives, Cathay said.

“The actions we have announced today, however unpalatable, are absolutely necessary to bring cash burn down to more sustainable levels,” Cathay Chairman Patrick Healy told reporters.

Cathay shares jumped almost 7% during early trading and closed 2.3% higher, with broker Jefferies saying the announcement removed a key overhang on the stock.

Singapore Airlines Ltd and Australia’s Qantas Airways Ltd have already announced similarly large payroll cuts, as the International Air Transport Association forecasts passenger traffic will not recover until 2024.

Cathay, which has stored around 40% of its fleet outside Hong Kong, said on Monday it planned to operate less than 50% of its pre-pandemic capacity in 2021.

After receiving a $5 billion rescue package led by the Hong Kong government in June, it had been conducting a strategic review.

The airline said it was bleeding HK$1.5 billion to HK$2 billion of cash a month and the restructuring would stem the outflow by HK$500 million a month in 2021, with executive pay cuts continuing throughout next year.

Slideshow ( 5 images )

BOCOM International analyst Luya You said she had expected more strategic insight from the airline on its fleet plans and route network as part of the restructuring.

“Had they revealed more on fleet planning for 2021-22, we would get a much better sense of their outlook,” she said.

Cathay will postpone the delivery of its 21 Boeing Co 777-9 jets on order beyond 2025, Healy said.

EXIT THE DRAGON

The decision to end regional brand Cathay Dragon is in line with rival Singapore Airlines’ pre-pandemic move to fold regional brand Silkair into its main brand, though in this case 2,500 Cathay Dragon pilots and cabin crew will lose their jobs.

Cathay Dragon, once known as Dragonair, operated most of the group’s flights to and from mainland China and had been hit by falling demand before the pandemic due to widespread anti-government protests in Hong Kong.

Plans to merge Cathay Dragon into Cathay’s main brand earlier this year hit roadblocks from China’s aviation regulator because of infractions during last year’s pro-democracy protests, two sources told Reuters in May.

Cathay said the airline would cease operating immediately and it would seek regulatory approval to fold the majority of Cathay Dragon’s routes in Cathay Pacific and low-cost arm HK Express.

Slideshow ( 5 images )

Healy said there would be “substantial savings” from combining Cathay Dragon’s narrowbody fleet with Cathay Pacific’s longhaul fleet and focusing on marketing of a single premium brand.

In the short-term, the closure of the Cathay Dragon brand will result in it being unable to carry cargo to Fuzhou, Guangzhou, Kuala Lumpur and Fukuoka, and it will only send dedicated freighters to Xiamen, Chengdu and Hanoi, it told cargo customers in a memo, indicating the routes were cut for now.

Like Singapore Airlines, Cathay lacks a domestic market to cushion it from the fall in international travel due to border closures.

In September, Cathay’s passenger numbers fell by 98.1% compared with a year earlier, though cargo carriage was down by a smaller 36.6%.

Cathay shares have fallen 41% since the start of January.

The airline’s share register is dominated by Swire Pacific Ltd, Air China Ltd, Qatar Airways and the Hong Kong government, with only a 12% free float.

Reporting by Jamie Freed; Additional reporting by Stella Qiu in Beijing; Editing by Stephen Coates and Louise Heavens

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Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific Airways slashes jobs, kills Dragon – Aljazeera.com

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Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd said on Wednesday it would slash 5,900 jobs and end its regional Cathay Dragon brand, joining peers in cutting costs as it grapples with a plunge in demand due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The airline would also seek changes in conditions in its contracts with cabin crew and pilots as part of a restructuring that would cost 2.2 billion Hong Kong dollars ($283.9m), it told the stock exchange.

Overall, it will cut 8,500 positions or 24 percent of its normal headcount, but that includes 2,600 roles currently unfilled due to cost reduction initiatives, Cathay said.

“The global pandemic continues to have a devastating impact on aviation and the hard truth is we must fundamentally restructure the group to survive,” Cathay Chief Executive Officer Augustus Tang said in a statement.

“The future remains highly uncertain and it is clear that recovery is slow,” Cathay said in Wednesday’s statement. “The management team has concluded that the most optimistic scenario it can responsibly adopt is one in which, for the year 2021, the company will be operating at well under 50 percent of the passenger capacity it operated in 2019.”

Cathay’s announcement came a day after Hong Kong said its unemployment rate rose to 6.4 percent for the July-September period, its highest level in almost 16 years, from 6.1 percent from June to August.

Devastating fallout

The coronavirus has had a devastating effect on aviation. As many as 46 million jobs are at risk, and airlines alone face about $420bn in lost revenue this year.

Singapore Airlines Ltd and Australia’s Qantas Airways Ltd have also announced large payroll cuts, as the International Air Transport Association forecasts passenger traffic will not recover until 2024.

Cathay was struggling with losses before the pandemic as anti-government protests in Hong Kong led to a sharp reduction in traffic last year and a change in management. The pandemic pushed the carrier into survival mode, forcing it to cut capacity and offer its staff voluntary no-pay leave.

The airline, which has stored about 40 percent of its fleet outside Hong Kong, said on Monday it planned to operate less than 50 percent of its pre-pandemic capacity in 2021.

Cathay Pacific has stored about 40 percent of its aircraft outside Hong Kong [File: Tyrone Siu/Reuters]

After receiving a $5bn rescue package led by the Hong Kong government in June, it had been conducting a strategic review that analysts expected would result in significant job losses.

The airline said it was bleeding between 1.5 billion Hong Kong dollars ($193.6m) to 2 billion Hong Kong dollars ($258m) of cash a month and the restructuring would stem the outflow by 500 million Hong Kong dollars ($64m) a month in 2021, with executive pay cuts continuing throughout next year.

BOCOM International analyst Luya You said she had expected a more strategic insight from the airline on its fleet plans and route network as part of the restructuring.

“Had they revealed more on fleet planning for 2021-22, we would get a much better sense of their outlook,” she said.

The decision to end regional brand Cathay Dragon is in line with rival Singapore Airlines’ pre-pandemic move to fold regional brand Silkair into its main brand.

Dragon’s end

Cathay Dragon, once known as Dragonair, operated most of the group’s flights to and from mainland China and had been hit by falling demand before the pandemic due to widespread anti-government protests in Hong Kong that deterred mainland travellers.

Low-cost regional carrier Cathay Dragon will cease operating immediately under Cathay Pacific’s cost-cutting plan [File: Paul Yeung/Bloomberg]

Plans to end the brand earlier this year hit roadblocks from China’s aviation regulator because of infractions during last year’s pro-democracy protests, two sources told the Reuters news agency in May.

Cathay said the airline would cease operating immediately and it would seek regulatory approval to fold the majority of Cathay Dragon’s routes into Cathay Pacific and low-cost arm HK Express.

“Now that Cathay has decided on staff count and the elimination of the Dragon brand it knows the size of the airline and the structure going forward and can complete its new fleet and network plan,” said Brendan Sobie, an independent aviation analyst.

Like Singapore Airlines, Cathay lacks a domestic market to cushion it from the fall in international travel due to border closures.

In September, Cathay’s passenger numbers fell by 98.1 percent compared with a year earlier, though cargo carriage was down by a smaller 36.6 percent.

Singapore and Hong Kong said on October 15 they planned to open their borders to one another for the first time in almost seven months, with quarantine replaced by coronavirus testing. The travel bubble could start with one flight per day according to Hong Kong Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Edward Yau.

Cathay shares have fallen 43 percent since the start of January. In July, it reached an agreement with Airbus SE to delay the delivery of A350s and A321neos and said it was in advanced talks with Boeing Co about deferring its 777-9 orders.

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