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Ghosn hits back following Japanese escape

On the run: Former Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn has held a press conference in Lebanon following his escape from Japan.

Former Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn speaks out after skipping bail in Japan

9 Jan 2020

FORMER Nissan Motor Company chairman and representative director Carlos Ghosn has surfaced for the first time since skipping bail in Japan last month over alleged financial misconduct, holding a press conference in Lebanon where he defended the charges laid against him.


Mr Ghosn was earlier last year released on $A14 million bail and had been awaiting trial in Japan, where he was accused of underreporting his salary by $A61.5 million from 2010-2014 while also hiding $A49 million in the 2015-2017 financial years.


Speaking from his home in Beirut, Lebanon, which has provided a safe haven for the automotive executive, Mr Ghosn admitted he violated Japanese law by fleeing the country but launched a defence of his actions, saying he was looking to clear his name of any wrongdoing.


In an interview with CNN, Mr Ghosn said he fled to escape injustice, comparing himself to those escaping authoritarian regimes in North Korea, Vietnam and Russia.


“In the system in which I’ve been through, I consider there is practically zero chance that I would get a fair trial,” he said.


“With zero chance of getting a fair trial, I don’t think this is justice – I was not running from justice, I was looking for justice.”


Mr Ghosn alleged that Nissan and the Japanese authorities worked together to have him arrested, saying it was done because the other executives at Japan’s second-biggest car-maker did not appreciate his management style or his plan to create a single holding company for Renault and Nissan.


He added that he is willing to take part in a trial outside of Japan.


Following the press conference, the Tokyo public prosecutor’s office released a statement calling Mr Ghosn’s criticism of the Japanese justice system “totally unacceptable”, and that the accusations of collusion with Nissan were “categorically false and completely contrary to fact”.


The statement also said that the office will “take whatever measures we have in our power” to bring Mr Ghosn back to Japan to face justice.


Last week, international police agency Interpol released a ‘red notice’ stating that Mr Ghosn is wanted by Japanese police, with Lebanon’s state prosecutor summoning Mr Ghosn to face questioning about the notice.


Mr Ghosn refused to comment on the details of his escape, which reportedly involved a train ride to Osaka followed by a private jet flight out of the country which he boarded by hiding in a large equipment case.


The other senior official indicted on charges alongside Mr Ghosn, former Nissan representative director Greg Kelly, remains in Japan on bail pending trial.


Mr Ghosn said the fact that they were not allowed to communicate with each other meant he was not in a position to aid Mr Kelly in leaving the country.


Mr Ghosn is a Brazilian-born Frenchman of Lebanese ancestry who brought a formidable reputation as ‘Le Cost Cutter’ to bear on Nissan Motor Co – forged over a 15-year period with Michelin during the 1980s and early 1990s.


He is credited with steering the company from near-bankruptcy to profitability in the late 1990s and early 2000s, and was a driving force behind establishing the Renault-Nissan Alliance that now, with Mitsubishi on board, forms the world’s largest automotive group.


If returned to Japan and convicted, Mr Ghosn could face a prison sentence of up to 10 years.

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