Ousted Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn confirmed on Tuesday that he fled to Lebanon, saying he didn’t want to be “held hostage” by a “rigged” justice system in Japan where he had been awaiting trial on financial misconduct charges.
“I am now in Lebanon and will no longer be held hostage by a rigged Japanese justice system where guilt is presumed, discrimination is rampant, and basic human rights are denied,” Ghosn, 65, said in a brief statement, Reuters reports.
“I have not fled justice – I have escaped injustice and political persecution. I can now finally communicate freely with the media, and look forward to starting next week,” Ghosn said.
It is unclear how Ghosn, who holds French, Brazilian and Lebanese citizenship, was able to orchestrate his departure from Japan, given that he had been under strict surveillance by authorities while out on bail and had surrendered his passports, Reuters noted.
Japanese immigration authorities had no record of Ghosn leaving the country, according to the nation’s public broadcaster NHK.
A person resembling Ghosn entered Beirut international airport under a different name, NHK reported, citing an unidentified Lebanese security official.
His Japanese lawyers were still in possession of his three passports, one of his lawyers, Junichiro Hironaka, told reporters.
Hironaka, in comments broadcast live on NHK, said the first he had heard of Ghosn’s departure was on the news this morning and that he was surprised. He also said it was “inexcusable behavior”.
Japan has extradition treaties with only the United States and South Korea, meaning it could be difficult to force Ghosn to return to stand trial.
Born in Brazil of Lebanese ancestry, Ghosn grew up in Beirut and has retained close ties to Lebanon.
Ghosn was first arrested in Tokyo in November 2018, shortly after his private jet touched down at the airport. He faces four charges – which he denies – including hiding income and enriching himself through payments to dealerships in the Middle East.
Nissan sacked him as chairman saying internal investigations revealed misconduct ranging from understating his salary while he was its chief executive, and transferring US$5 million of Nissan funds to an account in which he had an interest.
Ghosn was initially released in March on a record US$9 million bail only to be arrested on related charges weeks later and then released on bail again at the end of April.
His movement and communications have been monitored and restricted to prevent his fleeing the country and tampering with evidence, the Tokyo District court previously said.
The case cast a harsh light on Japan’s criminal justice system, which allows suspects to be detained for long periods and prohibits defense lawyers from being present during interrogations that can last eight hours a day, Reuters noted.
The terms of his bail have also been striking by Western standards. He has been prevented from communicating with his wife, Carole, and had his use of the internet and other communications curtailed.
Carole is now with him in Lebanon at a house with armed guards outside, the New York Times reported, citing a person familiar with the matter.
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