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Ousted Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn confirmed he fled to Lebanon, saying he wouldnt be “held hostage” by a “rigged” justice system and raising questions about how one of the worlds most-recognised executives escaped Japan months before his trial.
Ghosns abrupt departure marks the latest dramatic twist in a year-old saga that has shaken the global auto industry, jeopardised the alliance of Nissan Motor Co Ltd and top shareholder Renault SA and cast a harsh light on Japans judicial system.
“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 on Tuesday.
“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.”
Most immediately, it was 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.
Japanese immigration authorities had no record of Ghosn leaving the country, Japanese public broadcaster NHK said. A person resembling Ghosn entered Beirut international airport under a different name after flying in aboard a private jet, NHK reported, citing an unidentified Lebanese security official.
His lawyers were still in possession of his three passports, one of his lawyers, Junichiro Hironaka, told reporters in comments broadcast live by NHK.
Hironaka said the first he had heard of Ghosns departure was on the news this morning and that he was surprised. He also said it was “inexcusable behaviour”.
French junior economy minister Agnes Pannier-Runacher said on Tuesday that she was “very surprised” by news that Ghosn had left Japan and flown to Lebanon, adding she had heard of it via the media.
Pannier-Runacher also told France Inter radio that, regarding Ghosn, no-one was above the law but Ghosn would be able to get French consular support as a French citizen.
While Ghosns arrest on financial misconduct charges last year ensured his dramatic fall from grace in Japan, he retains more popularity in Lebanon, where billboards saying “We are all Carlos Ghosn” were erected in his support and he at one time featured on a postage stamp.
Born in Brazil, Ghosn is of Lebanese ancestry and grew up in Beirut. He has retained close ties to the country.
A spokeswoman for the Lebanese embassy in Tokyo said “we did not receive any information” on the matter. Calls to the Brazilian embassy went unanswered. A French embassy spokesman in Tokyo declined to comment.
Ghosn was arrested at a Tokyo airport shortly after his private jet touched down on Nov. 19, 2018. 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 $5 million of Nissan funds to an account in which he had an interest.
The case cast a harsh light on Japans criminal justice system, which allows suspects to be detained for long periods and prohibits defence lawyers from being present during interrogations that can last eight hours a day.
Tokyo officials say the system is not inhumane and that Ghosn has been treated like any other suspect.
He was released from prison in March on a $9 million bail, among the highest-ever paid in Japan.
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