Carlos Ghosn, former CEO of Nissan who was in Japan awaiting trial on multiple charges for misusing corporate funds and hiding his pay, has dramatically fled the country for Lebanon.
After arriving in Beirut, Ghosn issued a statement to the press declaring: “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.
“I have not fled justice – I have escaped injustice and political persecution.”
Unlike many developed countries, Japanese authorities are able to hold suspects in jail for 20 days with limited access to visitors or lawyers. Prosecutors often rearrest suspects on a new charge before the expiry of the 20-day period.
Lebanon has no extradition treaty with Japan, so if the former CEO is careful with his travels, he may never tried in person in Japan.
Ghosn attended a pre-trial hearing on Christmas Day, and his trial was scheduled to begin in April. If convicted on all charges, he could have been jailed for a total of 15 years and fined ¥150 million ($2 million).
Since being granted bail on a ¥1.5 billion ($20 million) bond in April 2019, Ghosn has been under 24-hour surveillance by Japanese authorities where he has been under virtual house arrest in Tokyo.
He was barred from travelling overseas, forced to hand over his passports, and prevented from communicating with his wife Caroline.
Lebanese television station MTV believes a Gregorian band played at Ghosn's home. When the band packed up, Ghosn was hidden in one of the group's largest instrument cases and spirited to a local airport where a private jet was waiting.
Reports indicate Ghosn flew from Tokyo to Istanbul, Turkey, where he transferred to a flight bound for Lebanon's capital Beirut.
According to The Guardian, Ghosn's escape from Japan may have been aided by officials in the Lebanese government.
He is regarded as a hero in his ancestral home land, and has received outspoken support from people connected to the current government.
At a hastily convened press conference, Hironaka said: “I want to ask him, ‘How could he do this to us?’ I wanted to prove he was innocent, but when I saw his statement in the press, I thought he doesn’t trust Japan’s courts.”
Hironaka noted "it would have been difficult for him to do this without the assistance of some large organisation”.
Carlos Ghosn was born in Brazil, but his parents came from Lebanon. He spent part of his childhood in Lebanon before completing his studies in France. He is a citizen of Brazil, Lebanon and France.