Ghosn Says He Faced A Choice Of Fleeing Or Dying In Japan

Ghosn says he faced a choice of fleeing or dying in Japan

BEIRUT--Former Nissan Motor Co. Chairman Carlos Ghosn on Jan. 8 maintained his innocence and said he decided to flee Japan because the only alternative was to die there.

In his first public appearance since his arrest in Tokyo in November 2018, Ghosn also blasted a few Nissan executives as well as Tokyo prosecutors.

About 100 reporters from around 60 media organizations in 12 nations attended his news conference, which lasted for about two and a half hours.

Ghosn is said to have personally picked the organizations, including The Asahi Shimbun, that would be allowed to attend the news conference.

Before the question-and-answer session, Ghosn spent about an hour reading a prepared statement.

He explained that prosecutors questioned him for eight hours a day after his initial arrest on suspicion of falsifying his annual remuneration from Nissan in the company’s annual financial statements.

Ghosn quoted them as saying: "You just confess and it will be over. If you don’t confess, not only are we going to go after you, we’re going to go after your family, and we’re going to discover many things."

Ghosn was initially released on bail in March 2019 after being indicted on a number of charges, including aggravated breach of trust. He explained that he decided to flee Japan rather than stand trial because "having endured inhuman treatment, I was left with no other choice but to protect myself and my family."

He added: "This was the most difficult decision of my life. But let us not forget that I was facing a system where the conviction rate is 99.4 percent."

Ghosn said the constant pushing back of the start of his trial also led him to eventually conclude that the situation facing him was: "You’re going to die in Japan or you’re going to have to get out."

In late December, Ghosn reportedly took a Shinkansen bullet train from Tokyo to Osaka and flew out of Kansai International Airport hidden in a container for audio equipment.

However, Ghosn did not go into detail about how he escaped.

"I am not here to talk about how I managed to leave Japan, although I can understand that you are interested in that," he said.

He also did not provide information to back up his contention that several Nissan executives and prosecutors were involved in a conspiracy to bring him down.

"I revived a company that nobody else before me was able to do," Ghosn said. "More than 20 books of management were written about me. All of a sudden, a few prosecutors and a bunch of executives at Nissan said, 'You know what? This guy is a cold, cold, greedy dictator.’"

Ghosn used an overhead projector to display documents that he said would back his contention that he was innocent.

After a short break, Ghosn began taking questions from reporters.

One reporter asked about the move by a group of Lebanese lawyers who have asked authorities in the country to press charges against Ghosn for visiting Israel, which has an adversarial relationship with Lebanon.

Ghosn said Renault executives asked him to visit Israel, and that he did so not as a Lebanese. He added that he did not know why the visit was now being brought up.

Sources close to Ghosn said that shortly after he arrived in Beirut on Dec. 30, he began holding videoconferences with a French public relations company to prepare for the news conference. The statement he read was hammered out over a few days while Ghosn received advice from those closest to him.

(This article was written by Ryo Takano, Takashi Ishihara and Shinichi Chubachi.)