Fri, Jan 10, 2020 - Page 6 News List

Japan seeks Ghosn return after he defends his escape

AFP, TOKYO

Japanese Minister of Justice Masako Mori yesterday urged former Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn to return and make his case in court after the fugitive gave a defense of his decision to jump bail and flee to Lebanon.

Ghosn made his first public appearance since his escape last month at a news conference in Beirut on Wednesday, where he criticized Japan and said he had been forced to flee because he would not get a fair trial.

Ghosn faced four charges of financial misconduct in Tokyo, which he says were concocted by disgruntled executives at Nissan in collusion with Japanese prosecutors.

Mori called those claims “baseless” and said that Ghosn’s “assertions will not justify his flight from Japan in any way.”

“If defendant Ghosn has anything to say on his criminal case, he should make his argument in a Japanese court and present concrete evidence,” she said.

“If he claims innocence, he should face a trial under the justice system in Japan, where he was doing business, and he should submit evidence to prove his claims,” she said.

Ghosn spent much of his two-hour news conference saying that justice was impossible for him in Japan.

He said that the charges against him, including allegedly under-reporting his pay and skimming Nissan funds for his own use, were a bid to bring him down for political reasons.

“There was no way I was going to be treated fairly ... this was not about justice,” he told reporters, responding to questions in English, Arabic, French and Portuguese.

Ghosn said he was “presumed guilty before the eyes of the world and subject to a system whose only objective is to coerce confessions, secure guilty pleas.”

Ghosn has argued since his shock arrest in November 2018 that the case against him was a bid to block his plans to more closely integrate Nissan with its French partner, Renault.

On Wednesday, he alleged extensive collusion between the Japanese automaker and prosecutors, and said he was the victim of character assassination.

The Tokyo prosecutor’s office said that “Ghosn’s allegations completely ignore his own conduct.”

“His one-sided criticism of the Japanese justice system is totally unacceptable,” the office said.

Former Nissan chief executive officer Hiroto Saikawa, a one-time Ghosn protege who resigned in the wake of the scandal, said that Ghosn “fled because he was afraid of being found guilty.”

Japanese media appeared unconvinced by Ghosn’s attempts to rebut the charges against him.

“We can’t take his word for it because he fled illegally abroad,” the Asahi Shimbun said in a commentary.

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