Wed, Jan 01, 2020 - Page 5 News List

Ghosn flees from a ‘rigged’ Japan

FUGITIVE TYCOON:The former Nissan chairman and his lawyers have repeatedly questioned the possibility of a fair trial in Japan, citing missteps by Tokyo prosecutors

AFP, BEIRUT and TOKYO

Former Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn yesterday said that he fled to Lebanon to escape injustice in Japan, where he was on bail awaiting trial on financial misconduct charges.

The tycoon’s abrupt departure was the latest twist in a roller-coaster journey that saw him fall from boardroom to detention center, and it has sparked questions over an embarrassing security lapse in Japan.

The 65-year-old Ghosn said in a statement that he would “no longer be held hostage by a rigged Japanese justice system, where guilt is presumed, discrimination is rampant and basic human rights are denied.”

“I have not fled justice — I have escaped injustice and political persecution,” said Ghosn, who vowed to communicate “freely” with the media “starting next week.”

It is not clear how he managed to leave Japan, as his bail conditions prevent him from exiting the country in which he had been held since his sudden arrest in November 2018 sent shockwaves through the business world.

He and his lawyers have repeatedly voiced fears over the impossibility of a fair trial in Japan and have called for the case to be thrown out, citing missteps by the Tokyo District Prosecutors’ Office.

Lebanese media reported that Ghosn flew by private airplane from Turkey to Lebanon, where his parents were born and where he spent most of his childhood.

Many Lebanese, who view Ghosn as a symbol of their country’s large diaspora and a prime example of Lebanese entrepreneurial genius, have been shocked by his arrest.

However, in Tokyo, the unexpected turn of events is sure to spark questions about how he could apparently have given authorities the slip.

His Japanese lawyer, Junichiro Hironaka, said that he was “dumbfounded” by the news and confirmed that lawyers were still in possession of Ghosn’s passports.

“I don’t even know if we can contact him. I don’t know how we will proceed beyond that,” Hironaka told reporters.

The Japan Broadcasting Corp quoted a Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs official as saying: “He was not supposed to leave the country. Had we known about it beforehand, we would have reported that to proper law enforcement authorities.”

Ghosn has consistently denied all charges against him, saying that they are a “plot” by Nissan executives to get rid of him, because they feared that he was moving the Japanese firm to a closer tie-up with Renault.

Ghosn has lost the business empire that he was lauded for creating. Sacked from Nissan and Mitsubishi Motors, he resigned from Renault — the third firm in the automaker alliance that he forged.

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