24 January 2020
Former Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn answers questions during a news conference in Beirut, Lebanon on Wednesday. Photo: Reuters
Former Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn answers questions during a news conference in Beirut, Lebanon on Wednesday. Photo: Reuters

Carlos Ghosn hits out at Nissan and Japan

Fugitive auto executive Carlos Ghosn said in Beirut on Wednesday that he had been treated “brutally” by Tokyo prosecutors and that he was the victim of an inside job to oust him from the stewardship of Nissan, Reuters reports.

Speaking publicly for the first time since his dramatic escape from Japanese justice,?the one-time titan of the car industry said he had no choice but to flee Japan.

The alternative was to spend the rest of his life languishing in Japan without a fair trial, Ghosn was quoted as saying during a two-hour news conference.?

Ghosn, 65, fled Japan last month as he was awaiting trial on charges of under-reporting earnings, breach of trust and misappropriation of company funds, all of which he denies.

“I felt like the hostage of a country I served for 17 years,” he told reporters.

In a combative performance, he gave a point-by-point rebuttal of the charges which he said he had been prevented from doing before, and compared the surprise of his arrest with Japan’s preemptive strike on Pearl Harbour during World War Two.

Ghosn said he had escaped to his childhood home of Lebanon to clear his name, but declined to say how he fled, noting there were conflicting stories about his astonishing escape.

“The charges against me are baseless,” Ghosn said, and he repeated his allegation that Nissan and Japanese authorities colluded to oust him following a downturn in Nissan’s fortunes and in revenge for French government interference in the carmaker’s alliance with Renault.

Tokyo prosecutors said his allegations of a conspiracy were false and that he had failed to justify his acts.

“Defendant Ghosn’s allegations completely ignore his own conduct and his one-sided criticism of the Japanese criminal justice system is totally unacceptable,” the Tokyo prosecutor’s office said after Ghosn spoke.

Ghosn named Masakazu Toyoda, an independent director at Nissan and a special adviser to the Japanese Cabinet; Nissan’s ex-auditor Hidetoshi Imazu; and the car company’s former executive vice president Hitoshi Kawaguchi as the main architects of his downfall.

He aid he had no intention of merging Renault with Nissan as some in Japan feared, but wanted to put the firms under a holding company that would have maintained a balance between the French carmaker’s push for a union and the Japanese company’s desire to remain autonomous.

Ghosn declined to name Japanese government officials he said took part in the alleged plot because he said he did not want to embarrass the Lebanese government, but added he did not think the top level of the Japanese government was involved.

Ghosn spoke about his harsh confinement in Tokyo’s main jail.

“I was brutally taken from my work as I knew it, ripped from my family and my friends…It is impossible to express the depth of that deprivation,” he said.

“I was interrogated for up to eight hours a day without any lawyers present…’It will get worse for you if you don’t just confess,’ the prosecutor told me repeatedly.”

Japan’s Ministry of Justice has said it will try to find a way to bring Ghosn back from Lebanon, even though it has no extradition treaty with Japan.

“I didn’t escape because I was guilty, I escaped because I had zero chance for a free trial,” Ghosn said at the news conference in Beirut on Wednesday.

He said he was prepared to stand trial in any of his three home countries, Lebanon, France or Brazil, none of which have extradition agreements with Japan.

When asked if he had been given any assurances from Lebanese officials about not being extradited, he said: “I am confident that the existing practices and laws will be respected in Lebanon and this is what I heard from all the officials here.”

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