Carlos Ghosn, the former Nissan (NSANY) CEO who was charged with financial wrongdoing in Japan and left the country in an internationally studied escape, on Wednesday spoke publicly for the first time about why he decided to make the risky run for it.
The charges Japan laid against him were baseless and resulted partly from individuals at Nissan who opposed him, Ghosn said in a press conference. He said that he had concluded that he would die in Japan if he didn’t find a way out.
The charges included understating his income and improperly transferring Nissan funds to a company he controlled.
“I did not escape justice. I fled injustice and political persecution,” the New York Times quoted the executive as saying. “I was left with no other choice but to protect myself and my family.”
The executive has said people at Nissan opposed his efforts to partner the company with Renault, of which he was also CEO.
He told reporters at a news conference in Beirut that he would not discuss how he escaped Japan.
How he escaped is the subject of widespread speculation. The Wall Street Journal has detailed a scenario in which several people - including a former member of the U.S. Special Forces - planned a day-long effort involving assessments of security lapses at airports. They ultimately spirited Ghosn out of Japan in a box normally used for audio equipment, the Journal reported.
Reports said that in Japan's court system, the conviction rate exceeds 99% and the country relies on extended detention to elicit false confessions.
Japanese officials told him that “it will be over if you just confess,” he said, according to the New York Times report of the news conference. “If you don’t confess, not only are we going to go after you, we are going to go after your family.” Ghosn has said that he alone arranged his escape.
The Washington Post has noted that Ghosn was arrested and rearrested a number of times, with an initial 23-day detention extended to 108 days. Reports said that Japan extended the date of one of his two planned trials to April 2021 from September 2020.
Ghosn, who is 65, was born in Brazil and is of Lebanese ancestry. He holds citizenships in Brazil, Lebanon and France.