C ARLOS GHOSN, a previous chairman of Nissan and Renault, would sound in the new year at his elegant house in Tokyo. Or so Japanese prosecutors believed until two days before the start of the 2020 s. News that Mr Ghosn, 65, had other plans came from an unforeseen source: a report by the Associated Press estimating Ricardo Karam, a Lebanese tv host and buddy of Mr Ghosn. He said the megastar executive had actually avoided bail and left to Lebanon. In a statement launched a day later through a spokeswoman, Mr Ghosn firmly insisted: “I have actually not fled justice– I have actually gotten away injustice and political persecution.”
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His dramatic escape has actually raised big questions for Japan. How did he do it, regardless of continuous surveillance of his motions? And exists any truth to his claims that the charges versus him were politically inspired? Prior to his arrest in Tokyo in November 2018, Mr Ghosn had actually been rumoured to be working on a merger in between Renault, a French carmaker, and its partner Nissan, a Japanese business. This would have upset numerous in the Japanese facility, as it would have looked like a foreign takeover of a Japanese commercial icon.
How Mr Ghosn managed to leave was still a mystery as we went to press. Local media in Lebanon said he got here in Beirut from Turkey on a private jet. Yet NHK, Japan’s state broadcaster, reported that Japanese migration officials had no record of him leaving the country. Mr Ghosn’s legal representative, Hironaka Junichiro, said he was “shocked and baffled” by his client’s departure. He said he held Mr Ghosn’s passports from Lebanon, Brazil and France and it would have been hard to pull off such a task “without the help of some big organisation”. Mr Ghosn’s other half, contacted by Reuters news firm, described as “fiction” reports that her partner had left his home hidden in a musical-instrument case utilized by performers who had simply bet him.
Many in Japan do not agree that Mr Ghosn got away injustice. Authorities fret that his story might embolden other prospective fugitives. He got away despite his face being widely recognisable. Prior to his arrest he was a hero in Japan for having assisted to revive Nissan, and had even featured in a manga comic series. An authorities from the district attorney’s workplace told Japanese media that Mr Ghosn had actually travestied the criminal-justice system.
Mr Ghosn stands implicated of misusing company funds– claims he denies, saying he was framed by “back-stabbing” Nissan bosses. After more than 120 days in jail, he was launched in April 2019 on bail of ¥ 1.5 bn ($138 m). His trial had actually been because of start in April2020 He is unlikely to attend it. Lebanon has no extradition treaty with Japan. Officials there state Mr Ghosn is in Lebanon lawfully (he reportedly got here using a French passport).
He has picked a friendly refuge. Though now damned in Japan, Mr Ghosn is a celeb in Lebanon, where he lived as a kid and has strong household ties (though he was born in Brazil). His face has appeared on Lebanese postage stamps. After his arrest, signboards declaring “We are all Carlos Ghosn” appeared across Beirut. Gibran Bassil, the foreign minister, has actually publicly revealed support for him.
In the statement released after his arrival in Lebanon, Mr Ghosn referred to “a rigged Japanese justice system where guilt is presumed, discrimination is widespread, and standard human rights are rejected”. He is not completely wrong. Well over 99%of those who are indicted are convicted. Authorities may hold suspects for 23 days without charge and question them without attorneys present. Courts concern the resulting confessions as the “king of proof”, though some are plainly coerced. (Mr Ghosn did not supply one.) In the not likely occasion that a defendant is discovered innocent, the state can appeal and subject him to double jeopardy– a procedure that can take years. Greg Kelly, a former aide to Mr Ghosn who has actually likewise been charged with monetary misbehavior, remains in Japan on bail, awaiting trial. He, too, keeps his innocence.
Mr Ghosn will find it difficult reconstructing his career. In September he, Mr Kelly and Nissan settled with America’s Securities and Exchange Commission over charges of filing deceitful records of Mr Ghosn’s pay and retirement advantages. Mr Ghosn paid a $1m charge and accepted a ten-year ban on working as an officer or director of a public firm. He, Mr Kelly and Nissan neither confessed nor denied misbehavior.
However, couple of anticipate Mr Ghosn, a lover of the spotlight who commemorated his 2nd marital relationship and his brand-new wife’s 50 th birthday with a Marie Antoinette-themed party at Versailles, to fade into obscurity. “I can now lastly communicate freely with the media, and look forward to starting next week,” he stated in his declaration. He will have lots of concerns to respond to. ■
This article appeared in the Asia section of the print edition under the headline “The flight of a car-industry megastar shocks Japan”