Some last-minute corporate drama unfolding right now in the last day of this second decade, and, conveniently, in the middle of the New Year holidays in Japan:
In a short written statement, the former Nissan-Renault boss confirmed on Tuesday that he was in Lebanon, which does not have an extradition treaty with Japan. He declared that “he 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”.
Amid speculation that Mr Ghosn may have used a false passport or even a diplomatic passport issued by the Lebanese government, the mystery of how he fled the country deepened on Tuesday morning when state broadcaster NHK reported that a source at Japan’s immigration office said authorities had no record of Mr Ghosn leaving the country.
This comes a month after World Business Satellite aired an interview with Carole Ghosn, Carlo Ghosn’s partner, saying that the Asahi Shimbun’s portrayal of a surprise raid against Ghosn’s misconduct when he landed in Tokyo in late 2018 was “fake news“.
Ghosn’s treatment since his arrest in November 2018 has thrown an unflattering spotlight on Japan’s justice system, and prompted concerns in boardrooms around the world. Sympathy was high among the general public in Lebanon, and its government had complained publicly about Ghosn’s humiliating treatment behind bars.
Ghosn, one of the world’s most successful and charismatic auto executives, was accused of financial misconduct and underreporting his income. But his initial 23-day detention was extended to 108 days as prosecutors rearrested him several times while he was still behind bars, a common tactic used in Japan to extract confessions and widely criticized as amounting to “hostage justice.”
He was released in March, then rearrested again in April just after announcing plans to hold a news conference, before finally being granted bail under strict conditions, including that he not speak to his wife. Writing in The Washington Post in April, Carole Ghosn said her husband had been kept in solitary confinement, with the lights on around the clock, and subjected to interrogation at all hours of the night and day without access to his lawyers.
The case prompted questions about whether a Japanese executive would have faced the same treatment, and why Ghosn and U.S. citizen Greg Kelly were the only Nissan board members arrested, when the company’s Japanese executives should also have known about Ghosn’s compensation arrangements.
I don’t profess to know anything about the Japanese legal system, or about Ghosn’s case. However, I do find it uncomfortable that the Asahi Shimbun was super gung-ho about the investigation. These graphics are borderline judgments before trial.
And the icing on the cake in a year full of escaping suspects: according to the Financial Times, Lebanon does not have an extradition treaty with Japan.