Carlos Ghosn has fled what he described as “injustice and political persecution” in Japan to Lebanon, months before the ousted Nissan boss was due to stand trial over alleged financial misconduct.
Ghosn’s abrupt departure from Japan for his native Lebanon, in breach of his strict bail conditions, marks the latest dramatic twist in a saga that has shaken the global car industry and cast a harsh light on the Japanese 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,” Ghosn said in a brief statement on Tuesday.
“I have not fled justice – I have escaped injustice and political persecution. I can now finally communicate freely with the media, and look forward to starting next week.”
It was not immediately clear how Ghosn, who had been under strict surveillance by authorities and had surrendered his passports, was able to leave Japan.
Japanese immigration authorities have no record of the former Nissan executive leaving the country, Japanese public broadcaster NHK said.
A person resembling Ghosn arrived at Beirut international airport after flying in on a private jet, NHK reported, citing a Lebanese security official.
Lebanese broadcaster MTV reported that Ghosn entered Lebanon on a French passport, citing an official source who said Lebanon was dealing with Ghosn according to “international agreements”.
Ghosn holds French, Brazillian and Lebanese citizenship. His lawyers in Japan still have all three of his passports, one of his lawyers, Junichiro Hironaka, hold reporters.
Hironaka said he had been surprised by news of Ghosn’s departure, which he described as “inexcusable behaviour”.
Ghosn was arrested at a Tokyo airport in November 2018. He faces four charges – all of which he denies – including hiding income.
Nissan sacked him as chairman saying that internal investigations had revealed misconduct including understating his salary while he was its chief executive and transferring $5m (£3.8m) of the carmaker’s funds into an account in which he had interest.
The case has brought the Japanese justice system, which allows suspects to be detained for long periods and prohibits defense lawyers from being present during interrogations, under scrutiny.
Officials in Tokyo have defended the system and said Ghosn has been treated like any other suspect.
He was released from prison in March on a $9m bail, among the highest ever set in Japan.
The Tokyo District Court had previously said Ghosn’s movement and communications were being monitored and restricted to prevent him fleeing the country or tampering with evidence.