Japan treated me like a 'terrorist', fugitive ex-Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn says

Japan treated me like a 'terrorist', fugitive ex-Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn says
In an expansive speech, Ghosn addresses allegations brought against him, the circumstances surrounding his escape last month and his instance that he is innocent.
5 min read
08 January, 2020
Ghosn insists he is innocent [Getty]

Former Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn has slammed his arrest in Japan as a plot against him, accusing Nissan and the prosecution of "collusion". 

Ghosn, who fled Japan after he was due to stand trial for alleged financial misconduct, was defensive and called the arrest “bullsh*t,” before he accused his former company of staging the arrest at the airport.

Nissan was behind it,” he told reporters at a news conference in Beirut, his first appearance since fleeing Japan.

The former industry titan stood firm on his claim of innocence, saying, “I should never have been arrested in the first place" adding that Japan treated him like a "terrorist."

He added: “I’m not above the law and I welcome the opportunity for the truth to come out and have my name cleared,” Ghosn said.

The car magnate smuggled himself from Tokyo to Beirut in December, arriving at the Lebanese capital where he grew up.

Media reports have said that he left his residence alone, met two men at a Tokyo hotel, and then took a bullet train to Osaka before boarding a private jet hidden inside a case for musical equipment. He flew to Istanbul and was then transferred onto another plane bound for Beirut, where he arrived 30 December.

A ’plot’

Ghosn portrayed his arrest as a plot linked to a decline in the financial performance of Nissan. Ghosn had been in favor of merging Nissan with industry competitor Renault, of which he was also chairman.

“Unfortunately there was no trust. And some of our Japanese friends thought that the only way to get rid of Renault in Nissan is to get rid of me,” he said.

Ghosn says he spent 130 days prison, most of which was spent in “solitary confinement.”

His room had a “tiny window” and he got to spend “30 minutes a day outside,” and was allowed to “shower twice a week.”

Ghosn went on to say that he was interrogated “day and night, up to eight hours without the presence of a lawyer.”

Earlier today Tokyo prosecutors raided a Japanese lawyer’s office where Ghosn had visited regularly before he fled.

Japanese media reports said prosecutors had likely seized the computer to track down how Ghosn escaped and who might have helped him.

It is thought Mike Taylor, a member of the US Army’s elite Green Berets aided in Ghosn’s daring escape from Japan.

Taylor, who is a security contractor with a wealth of experience across the Middle East, particularly in Lebanon, orchestrated the trip that snuck Ghosn out of Japan.

Ghosn used visual aids to illustrate his innocence [Getty]

“The bottom line is this guy [Ghosn] was a damn hostage that’s what it was,” he told US military veterans website Connecting Vets.

“If he popped out of North Korea or China it would be a totally different narrative.”

An hour before the scheduled press conference, a Lebanese prosecutor said Ghosn will be summoned “in the coming hours” over a visit to Israel more than 10 years ago, according to the state-run National News Agency.

Citing the nearly 100 per cent conviction rate in Japan, Ghosn said he fled because he believes it is the only way to get “justice.”

“I felt like I was a hostage of a country I served for 17 years. This is not justice.

“This is political. I am innocent of all the charges and I can prove it now. I left japan because I wanted justice. I didn’t run from justice.”

On Tuesday, Tokyo prosecutors obtained an arrest warrant for Carole Ghosn on suspicion of perjury.

That charge is not related to his escape. Lebanon's justice minister said Tuesday that Lebanon has not received any request related to that warrant.

‘A fair trial’

Ghosn has expressed his willingness to stand trial in Lebanon for the allegations brought against him, and said he is ready to stand trial “anywhere I will get a fair trial.”

“I am used to what you call ‘mission in possible’ I can do a lot and I can clear my name,” he said.

“You can expect me in the next weeks to let you know how I will clear my name so all the evidence will come to the table.”

Lebanese authorities have said Ghosn entered the country on a legal passport, casting doubt on the possibility they would hand him over to Japan. Lebanon last week received an Interpol-issued wanted notice — a non-binding request to law enforcement agencies worldwide that they locate and provisionally arrest a fugitive.

Lebanon and Japan do not have an extradition treaty, and the Interpol notice does not require Lebanon to arrest him.
Ghosn, who is Lebanese and also holds French and Brazilian passports, was expected to go on trial in Tokyo in April.

Read More: Protesters in Lebanon condemn walls installed by security forces following clashes

In statements, he has said he fled to avoid “political persecution” by a “rigged Japanese justice system." He also said that he alone organised his departure from Japan and that his wife, Carole, played no role.

Falling profits

The businessman also spoke of his plan in 2017 to create a holding company between Renault, Nissan and Mitsubishi, as well as pursuing Fiat Chrysler – and why that fell through.

“Who is the winner? In 2017 the lions Renault, Nissan and Mitsubishi were the biggest automotive groups. [They were] Growing, bold, and we were going to add Fiat Chrysler to join.

“We look at today: There is no more alliance. Three companies’ profits are down, no more technological innovation, the alliance missed the unmissable - Fiat Chrysler didn’t go with the alliance they went PSA.

“I didn’t receive any compensation. They turned the Ghosn page because there is no more gross, no more increase of profit, there is no more strategic initiative. What we see today is a masquerade of an alliance.”

Ghosn’s former employer, Nissan Motor Co., said it was still pursuing legal action against him despite his escape, adding that Ghosn engaged in serious misconduct while leading the Nissan-Renault-Mitsubishi alliance. Ghosn denies all the charges.

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