Carlos Ghosn Comes Out Firing in Beirut Press Conference

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
carlos ghosn comes out firing in beirut press conference

There’s no love lost between former Renault and Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn and the judiciary of Japan, and the same goes for the automaker that dropped him as chairman following his November 2018 arrest — an arrest he fled in the waning days of 2019.

A fugitive from justice following his daring escape from Japanese authorities, Ghosn opened up during a Wednesday press conference in Beirut, Lebanon, reserving his harshest remarks for Nissan and the country in which its head office resides.

“I was brutally taken from my world as I knew it,” said a fiery Ghosn, his hair looking far greyer than in the months leading to his arrest. “I felt I was a hostage of a country that I had served for 17 years.”

Captivity in a Tokyo jail was torture, Ghosn claims, and his decision to flee house arrest and looming trials for financial wrongdoing was “the most difficult decision of my life.” Ghosn, the subject of an Interpol arrest warrant, stands charged with underreporting income to Japanese regulators and offloading personal losses to Nissan. As before, the fallen auto titan vigorously denies the allegations.

“I have not experienced a moment of freedom since Nov. 19, 2018,” Ghosn told assembled media. “It is impossible to express the depth of the aggravation and my profound appreciation once again to be able to be reunited with my family and loved ones.”

The former executive claims interrogations lasted up to eight hours, day and night, with Japanese authorities apparently showing little interest in finding out the truth. Not surprisingly, Ghosn said he felt pressured to confess. Having not done so, and realizing the country’s sky-high conviction rate, the man who once rescued Renault and Nissan said he felt he would die in Japan if he didn’t make a break for it.

“It will be over if you just confess,” he said, describing his encounters with Japanese officials. “If you don’t confess, not only are we going to go after you, we are going to go after your family.”

Claiming he never should have been arrested in the first place, Ghosn reiterated earlier claims that his arrest was orchestrated with the help of Nissan. The plot arose, he said, after he began positioning alliance partners Renault and Nissan for closer tie-up.

“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. Ghosn said he regrets not retiring when he had a chance.

At the time of his arrest, Ghosn claims he was in the midst of orchestrating a merger with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles; the Italian-American auto giant later announced a merger with PSA Group, Renault’s main French rival.

Ahead of the media conference, Ghosn’s lawyers issued a statement calling out the Nissan internal investigation that led to the charges against their client.

“The investigation was initiated and carried out for the specific, predetermined purpose of taking down Carlos Ghosn to prevent him from further integrating Nissan and Renault, which threatened the independence of Nissan,” his lawyers wrote. They added that the probe somehow skipped over officials with their own compensation controversies, including former CEO Hiroto Saikawa.

In the background of Ghosn’s presser, Japanese authorities raided the offices of his Japanese lawyers, who claim they were able to save two computers from confiscation. Japan has also issued an arrest warrant for Ghosn’s wife, Carole, claiming she had lied during testimony.

Japanese media report that Ghosn’s December 29th flight from house arrest began at the front door of his Tokyo home, from which the former exec emerged wearing a hat and face mask. From there, he travelled by bullet train to Osaka, some 300 miles distant. Somewhere along the way, he allegedly met up with two operatives, one a former U.S. special forces member, who aided in his escape and accompanied him on a private plane bound for Istanbul, Turkey. Ghosn was reportedly smuggled onto the plane in an oversized case designed for musical instruments.

A second aircraft carried Ghosn to his childhood home of Lebanon, where the fugitive would be safe from extradition.

[Sources: The New York Times, CNBC] [Images: Nissan]

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  • WildcatMatt WildcatMatt on Jan 08, 2020

    I'm divided on this. I think he's probably guilty of breaking some laws and certainly of bending others. I'm sure many other CEOs have done similar things without being caught. I also think that he's probably correct that some faction of the business wanted rid of him and ratted him out. And I'm willing to believe that the legal system was messing with him in the hopes of extracting a confession. All that being said... It's also clear that Ghosn was under the impression that if he were caught that he would be in an "Office Space" style situation in a "white collar jail with conjugal visits" and not "federal pound-me-in-the-a$$ prison" (yes, I know he was in solitary). There's also the implication that he's surprised that the legal system would mess with him to extract a confession. Both positions are either profoundly insincere or profoundly naive.

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    • 28-Cars-Later 28-Cars-Later on Jan 09, 2020

      @28-Cars-Later So telling lies about having the contractual right to pay yourself X after an event/goal (i.e. retirement) is embezzlement? I realize this is roughly your area of expertise but to we proles it sounds a little like splitting hairs, especially without the act or attempted act at taking possession of the money.

  • Dal20402 Dal20402 on Jan 08, 2020

    There is no question that the Japanese process is different and harsher than what he would have undergone in the US. The question in my mind is whether it was normal under local law, or whether it was worse than normal either (1) because he was a gaijin or (2) because the authorities were in cahoots with Nissan. There ought to be an investigation about that, although I'm sure there won't be. But it rankles that he's not going to face justice anywhere for his theft.

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