Japan Urges Ghosn to Return After His First Public Appearance in Beirut

Published January 10th, 2020 - 02:13 GMT
Japan Urges Ghosn to Return After His First Public Appearance in Beirut
Japan’s Justice Minister Masako Mori speaks during a press conference on former auto tycoon Carlos Ghosn after he fled Japan to avoid a trial, in Tokyo on January 6, 2020. (AFP)
Japan's justice minister on Thursday urged Carlos Ghosn to return and make his case in court, after the former auto tycoon gave an impassioned defence 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 Tokyo, which he alleges were cooked up by disgruntled executives at Nissan in collusion with Japanese prosecutors, AFP reported.

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."

"If defendant Ghosn has anything to say on his criminal case, he should make his argument in a Japanese court and present concrete evidence," she added.

"If he claims innocence, he should face a trial under the justice system in Japan, where he was doing business, and he should submit evidence to prove his claims," Mori stressed.

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.

"There was no way I was going to be treated fairly... this was not about justice," he told reporters, responding to questions in English, Arabic, French and Portuguese.

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.

According to AFP, Interpol has issued a "red notice" at Japan's request, but it remains unclear how Tokyo can bring Ghosn back to face trial.

He said Wednesday he plans to take measures, including possibly challenging the Interpol notice, in a bid to clear his name, but would not be drawn on whether he planned to travel outside Lebanon.

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