BY WES RAYNAL
JAN 8, 2020
In a press conference lasting more than two hours in Beirut, former Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn, after bolting bail in Japan, told his side of the story.
It was the first press conference Ghosn held since his legal issues began in November 2018. Facing charges and trials that his team feared could have landed him in prison for more than a decade, last week he bolted to Lebanon in a private jet from Osaka’s Kansai International Airport.
He said he escaped a “rigged Japanese justice system.” He continually blasted the country’s justice system and its 99 percent conviction rate. “Guilt is presumed, discrimination is rampant and basic human rights are denied. I was presumed guilty from Day 1,” he said.
Ghosn faces four indictments in Japan. The first two allege he failed to disclose more than $80 million in deferred compensation. The other two say he diverted company money for his own gain.
At the Beirut press conference, Ghosn said he was ready to retire before June 2018, but Nissan asked him to stay on. “I unfortunately accepted this offer,” he said. He said he was working to integrate Renault and Nissan while respecting the autonomy of both companies, but there was mistrust, and Nissan higher-ups thought Renault was gaining too much power. “Some of my Japanese friends thought that the only way to get rid of the influence of Renault on Nissan, was to get rid of me,” he said.
He thus claimed it was Nissan execs, looking for a fall guy, who engineered his arrest, colluding with the Japanese government. “One of the reasons I’m in this situation today is that I accepted this offer to continue to integrate the two companies, to converge the two companies,” he said.
He also said Nissan’s financial woes that began in 2017 prompted the company to act against him.
“There was some nervousness in the ranks of top management at Nissan that at some time patience would run out and change would come,” Ghosn said. He said former Nissan CEO Hiroto Saikawa, former executive VP Hitoshi Kawaguchi and outside director Masakazu Toyoda were among those involved in the plot against him and that it was never going to be a fair outcome.
“I did not escape justice, I fled injustice and persecution, political persecution,” said Ghosn during his press conference. He added that he was left with no other choice and also called Japan’s hostage justice system “inhumane” and “anachronistic.”
“It is a system indifferent to the truth, indifferent to fairness and process, indifferent to fundamental civil liberties and justice,” he proclaimed.
Ghosn also attacked the investigation that led to his 2018 arrest. “I was brutally taken from my world as I knew it,” he said. “I was ripped from my family, my friends, from my communities and from Renault, Nissan and Mitsubishi.”
“I felt that I was a hostage in a country that I had served for 17 years,” he said. “For 17 years I was considered a role model in Japan.”
Ghosn also criticized his treatment under arrest, where he spent nearly 130 days in solitary confinement as prosecutors repeatedly arrested him on different counts.
Ghosn’s escape humiliated Japan, and authorities defended the country’s legal system as fair and said Ghosn bolted to escape punishment for his alleged crimes. “Prosecutors indict defendants only when prosecutors conclude that they can establish their case in courts beyond any reasonable doubt,” the Tokyo Public Prosecutor’s Office said in a release. “As a result, Japan has had a history of high conviction rates.”
For its part, Nissan also issued a statement that said it found “incontrovertible evidence” of misconduct by Ghosn and that “the company will continue to take appropriate legal action to hold Ghosn accountable for the harm that his misconduct has caused to Nissan,” the automaker said.
More is definitely to come.