Carlos Ghosn, the embattled former CEO and chairman of the Renault Nissan Mitsubishi Alliance, has fled to Lebanon from Japan where he was facing trial after an arrest in late 2018 on fraud-related charges.
The mechanics of how Ghosn escaped are unclear as under his bail conditions he was heavily monitored and not allowed to leave the country, though there are reports he was smuggled out in a music instrument case of a band that performed during a Christmas party at his residence in Tokyo.
In a statement sent to Bloomberg on Tuesday, Ghosn said he fled Japan due to what he described as a rigged justice system.
“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,” he said. “I have not fled justice—I have escaped injustice and political persecution.”
Ghosn is a citizen of Lebanon and spent much of his childhood there. Importantly, the country has no extradition agreement with Japan.
A lawyer representing Ghosn, Junichiro Hironaka, told Japanese media that Ghosn’s passports were withheld so it’s likely Ghosn entered Lebanon through a different name, Bloomberg reported.
The charges in Japan, which Ghosn fully denies, include misreporting income to financial regulators, transferring personal losses onto Nissan's corporate books, and transferring corporate funds for personal use.
The Securities and Exchange Commission also filed charges against Ghosn which he settled in September. Ghosn at the time said he settled with the SEC in order to focus on his trial in Japan.
In a video released in April, Ghosn claimed his innocence and described the whole ordeal as a “conspiracy” against him. Rumors have swirled that Nissan executives potentially set Ghosn up for failure as he proposed merging Renault and Nissan, which would have cost the Japanese company some of its autonomy.
Greg Kelly, Ghosn's subordinate at the Renault Nissan Mitsubishi Alliance and a United States citizen, was arrested alongside Ghosn in 2018 as part of the case and is still in Tokyo facing trial.