Ghosn says he fled Japanese 'injustice,' rejects 'baseless' charges

BEIRUT, Weedah Hamzah and Jan Kuhlmann (dpa)- Former Renault-Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn on Wednesday made his first public appearance since he fled Japan to Lebanon late last month, dismissing the charges against him at a defiant, two-and-a-half hour press conference in Beirut.
"The charges against me are baseless," he told the packed room of journalists from around the globe, going on to say that his decision to flee Japan before his trial on financial misconduct charges was the "most difficult decision" in his life.

"I was left with no other choice but to protect myself," the ex-auto titan said, declining to give details about his dramatic escape from Japan while free on bail.
"I will not reveal how I escaped because that will put some people in great danger."
After Ghosn's press conference ended in Beirut, the deputy chief of the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office, Takahiro Saito, released a statement blasting the fugitive.
"(His) one-sided criticism of the Japanese criminal justice system is totally unacceptable," Saito said according to Kyodo press agency. 
"Our office is determined to coordinate with relevant authorities and to take whatever measures we have in our power to bring defendant Ghosn to justice in Japan," Saito said.
Looking self-composed and speaking several languages, including French, English, Arabic and Portuguese, Ghosn showed the media documents about the charges against him and expenses he was accused of paying using company money, even though he claims they were allegedly for private use.
"I was a hostage to a country which I served for 17 years," Ghosn said, referring to Japan.
The 65-year-old tycoon called his detention a "travesty" against human rights and described his arrest as "staged."
"Some of our Japanese friends felt the only way to get rid of Renault influence was to get rid of me," Ghosn told reporters in the Lebanese Press Syndicate.
He said Japanese authorities had kept him from seeing his wife and family, allowing him to shower only twice a week, and interrogated him for eight hours daily.
"The reason for my arrest was for a compensation that was not fixed, not decided, not paid,” Ghosn said without elaborating.
He expressed love to Japan, saying he was not a "dictator" as he was portrayed by the Japanese media. He said that he denied some Japanese journalists access to the press conference because some of them were not objective.
While saying he is ready to continue staying in Lebanon, Ghosn vowed to "struggle" to restore his "good reputation."
Ghosn is due to appear on Thursday before Lebanon's attorney general, a judicial source told dpa. 
"Ghosn will appear before Judge Ghassan Aweidat at the Lebanese Justice Palace in Beirut to give his statement on a red notice issued by Interpol against him and a [Japanese] request to arrest him," the source added.
Ghosn, who was awaiting trial over financial misconduct charges, said in a statement after his arrival in Lebanon at the end of December that he had escaped "injustice and political persecution" in Japan.
The former head of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Motors alliance was arrested in November 2018 in Tokyo. Last March, he was released from jail after 108 days. He was free on bail at the time of his escape.
Much remains unknown about how Ghosn, who holds French, Brazilian and Lebanese citizenship, got to Lebanon, where he has a home. Lebanon has no extradition treaty with Japan.
Nissan Motor said on Tuesday that it would continue to take legal action against him.
Nissan said its investigation found "incontrovertible evidence of various acts of misconduct by Ghosn, including misstatement of his compensation and misappropriation of the company's assets for his personal benefit."
Representatives of Ghosn hit back at Nissan, saying its investigation was "flawed, biased and lacking in independence from its inception."
They said Nissan had never interviewed the former chairman during the probe and that it failed to find improper payments to former president Hiroto Saikawa, who resigned in September.
The Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office this week obtained an arrest warrant for Ghosn's wife on suspicion of perjury.
The office said Carole Ghosn is suspected of making a false statement at the Tokyo District Court in April in connection with her husband's alleged aggravated breach of trust.
Carole Ghosn was in attendance at her husband's press conference.

Wednesday, January 8th 2020
Weedah Hamzah and Jan Kuhlmann (dpa)

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