Former Nissan chief Ghosn says he is in Lebanon to avoid ‘political persecution’

Nissan’s former Chairman Carlos Ghosn has said he is in Lebanon and was not fleeing justice, but instead sought to avoid “injustice and political persecution” in Japan where he is to be tried for alleged financial misconduct.

Mr Ghosn was out on bail – which banned overseas travel – before his departure, which occurred under unclear circumstances.

He disclosed his location in a statement through his representatives that did not describe how he left the country, and he promised to talk to reporters next week.

“I am now in Lebanon and will no longer be held hostage by a rigged Japanese justice system where 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,” the statement said.

Japanese media quoted prosecutors speaking anonymously who said they did not know how Mr Ghosn had left the country while under surveillance.

Mr Ghosn, who is of Lebanese origin and holds French, Lebanese and Brazilian passports, was arrested in November 2018 and was expected to face trial in April 2020.

Prosecutors fought his release, but a court granted him bail with conditions that he be monitored and he could not meet with his wife Carole, who is also of Lebanese origin.

Japan does not have an extradition treaty with Lebanon, with it unclear what steps the authorities might take.

Mr Ghosn has repeatedly asserted his innocence, saying authorities trumped up charges to prevent a possible fuller merger between Nissan Motor Co and alliance partner Renault SA.

He has been charged with under-reporting his future compensation and of breach of trust.

Lebanon Ghosn
A policeman leaves the residence of former Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn in Beirut, Lebanon (Maya Alleruzzo/AP)

During his release on bail, Mr Ghosn had been going daily to the office of his main lawyer Junichiro Hironaka to work on his case.

Mr Hironaka has not commented on Ghosn’s departure from the country.

Earlier, Ricardo Karam, a television host and friend of Mr Ghosn, told The Associated Press that Mr Ghosn arrived in Lebanon on Monday morning.

“He is home,” Mr Karam told the AP in a message. “It’s a big adventure.”

Mr Karam declined to elaborate.

Mr Ghosn was credited with leading a spectacular turnaround at Nissan beginning in the late 1990s.

The charges Ghosn faces carry a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison.

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