Japan urges Ghosn to return

Source:AFP Published: 2020/1/9 18:38:40

Former tycoon claims he is character assassination target

Former Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn leaves the Tokyo Detention House following his release on bail in Tokyo on Wednesday. Ghosn posted bail of 1 billion yen ($9 million) in cash, paving the way for his release from the detention centre after more than three months in custody. Photo: AFP

Japan's justice minister on Thursday urged Carlos Ghosn to return and make his case in court, after the fugitive former auto tycoon gave an impassioned defense of his decision to jump bail and flee to Lebanon.

Ghosn made his first public appearance since his audacious December escape at a combative press conference in Beirut on Wednesday, where he slammed Japan and said he had been forced to flee because he would not get a fair trial.

The ex-chairman of Nissan-Renault faced four charges of financial misconduct in Japan, which he alleges were cooked up by disgruntled executives at Nissan in collusion with Japanese prosecutors.

On Thursday, Japanese Justice Minister Masako Mori called those claims "baseless" and insisted Ghosn's "assertions will not justify his flight from Japan in any way."

The former car magnate spent much of his two-hour press conference insisting that justice was impossible for him in Japan.

He argued that the charges against him, including allegedly under-reporting his pay and skimming Nissan funds for his own personal use, were a bid to bring him down for political reasons.

Ghosn said he was "presumed guilty before the eyes of the world and subject to a system whose only objective is to coerce confessions, secure guilty pleas."

Ghosn has argued since his shock November 2018 arrest that the case against him was a bid to block his plans to more closely integrate Nissan with its French partner Renault.

On Wednesday, he alleged extensive collusion between the Japanese automaker and prosecutors and said he was the victim of character assassination.

The Tokyo prosecutor's office hit back late Wednesday, saying "Ghosn's allegations completely ignore his own conduct."

"His one-sided criticism of the Japanese justice system is totally unacceptable," the prosecutor's office said.

Former Nissan CEO Hiroto Saikawa, a one-time Ghosn protege who was forced to resign in the wake of the scandal, also hit out on Thursday.

Ghosn "fled because he was afraid of being found guilty," Saikawa told reporters.

The 65-year-old businessman was out on bail in Tokyo when he launched his audacious escape plan, and said he decided to flee after his lawyers told him he could wait five years for a verdict.

He also accused prosecutors of imposing strict conditions on his contact with his wife Carole in a bid to "break" him. Prosecutors in Tokyo this week obtained an arrest warrant for Carole, who is also in Lebanon, alleging she lied to a Japanese court.

Ghosn refused to shed any further light on how he managed to slip past authorities and flee Japan at the end of December - an astonishing feat given his high-profile status and the restrictions he faced.



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