Former Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn has fled Japan, where he has been held on bail while awaiting charges for financial misconduct, and emerged in Beirut, Lebanon – reportedly escaping in a musical instument case – from where he has vowed to fight to clear his name.
Ghosn was arrested in Japan on November 19, 2018 on charges relating to his time as chairman of Nissan. The numerous charges include misusing company assets, underreporting his income and transferring personal investment losses onto Nissan foreign exchange dealing.
After spending 108 days in custody he was released on bail, with strict conditions that barred him from travelling abroad. His trial was due to begin in April 2020. In Japan, Ghosn had been under constant surveillance, with restricted phone and internet usage, while his three passports – he has French, Brazilian and Lebanese heritage – are held by his Japanese lawyer.
According to Lebanese news channel MTV, Ghosn escaped with the help of a Gregorian music band and a team of ex-special forces members. It claims the musicians played a concert at his house, at the conclusion of which Ghosn – who is 5ft 6in – was hidden in one of the larger cases. He was then taken to a small local airport, where a private Bombadier challenger jet was waiting to fly him to Lebanon.
After arriving in Beirut, the 65-year-old issued a statement to the media, saying: “I have not fled justice. I have escaped injustice and political persecution.”
He went on to attack the Japanese legal system, in which he claims “guilt is presumed, discrimination is rampant, and basic human rights are denied, in flagrant disregard of Japan’s legal obligations under international law and treaties it is bound to uphold”.
He continued: “I can now finally communicate freely with the media,” adding that he would start to do so next week."
One of Ghosn’s Japanese lawyers, Junichiro Hironaka, told reporters in the country that they knew nothing about Ghosn leaving the country, and were still in possession of his passports. Hironaka said: “We told the court that we are in a bind as well. If he actually left this country, it violates the conditions for bail.” He added: “I don’t even know if we can contact him.”
An official at the Lebanese foreign ministry told Reuters Ghosn had entered the country legally using his French passport and Lebanese ID.
According to the Japan Times, the Tokyo District Court has confirmed that the terms of Ghosn’s bail remained unchanged, which suggests he left the country without permission. According to further reports, the Japanese Immigration Services Agency has no records of Ghosn’s departure.
Ghosn, who was born in Brazil, has Lebanese parents and lived in the country from the age of six until he left to attend university in Paris. Notably, Lebanon has no extradition agreement with Japan.