Carlos Ghosn, former chief executive of Nissan and Renault, has fled to Lebanon, escaping his upcoming trial in Japan, giving rise to speculations about how he was able to get away so easily from his alleged infractions.
Lebanon has no extradition treaty with Japan. Japanese lawmakers had pointed to Ghosn being a flight risk before he was able to post bail.
Ghosn walked out of a Tokyo jail on March 6, 2019 after 108 days in detention, then determined to refute allegations of financial misconduct leveled against him by Japanese prosecutors and Nissan Motor, the company he saved from collapse nearly two decades ago.
The court set bail at 1 billion yen ($8.93 million) after two failed applications for bail. Japanese prosecutors have a conviction rate of more than 99%.
“I am innocent and totally committed to vigorously defending myself in a fair trial against these meritless and unsubstantiated accusations,” he said on the eve of his release in a statement.
A surveillance camera was placed at the entrance to an apartment in Tokyo designated by the court. The former Nissan boss’s computer and mobile phones were blocked from internet access, and Ghosn’s lawyers promised to hold his three passports — Lebanese, Brazilian, and French — to ensure he does not attempt to leave the country.
Yet, he did manage to make his way home.
Ghosn, who claimed he is “tired of being an industrial political hostage” is said to have failed to report over $80 million of planned future income in Nissan’s financial statements, sending $14.7 million in Nissan money to a Saudi friend and Nissan business partner, and redirecting $5 million designated for an Omani distributor for his own use. He could face up to 15 years in jail for the offences. According to the NHK, Japan’s national public broadcasting organization, citing unnamed sources, Nissan spent millions of dollars on luxury homes in four countries without legitimate business justifications.
Millions of dollars had been spent to purchase and renovate the homes in Brazil, Lebanon, France and the Netherlands, the organization said.
In 2018, the former Nissan boss was fired and arrested along with his longtime colleague and co-conspirator Representative Board Director Greg Kelly.
For Nissan, Ghosn’s escapade has come as an undeniable blemish on its record, while exposing loopholes in its corporate governance that allowed Ghosn to get away with his crimes. For its alliance partner Renault, the row has spoiled merger negotiations with Nissan and Fiat Chrysler.