Former Nissan Chairman Carlos Ghosn, in his first public appearance since fleeing Japan, accused the country’s prosecutors on Wednesday of trying to force a flawed confession.
In an internationally broadcast news conference in Beirut, Ghosn said that while he was under arrest he was questioned for up to eight hours a day, without access to lawyers, and was told his family would suffer if he didn’t confess.
“”Just confess and it will be over. Not only will we go after you, and we will go after your family,'” the 65-year-old Ghosn said he was told.
Without elaborating, the ex-auto exec also said Japanese prosecutors had leaked false information to the media and concealed evidence that would have helped his case. Japanese prosecutors had no immediate response to Ghosn’s comments.
Ghosn was arrested in November 2018 on charges of underreporting his salary, using Nissan money for private investments and employing his sister as a highly paid consultant. He denies wrongdoing.
He escaped from house arrest on Dec. 29 and was flown on a stealth journey that eventually took him to Lebanon, where he has citizenship.
He told reporters he had looked forward to Wednesday’s opportunity to speak for more than 400 days after he had been “ripped from my family, friends, communities, from Renault, Nissan and Mitsubishi and the 450,000 women and men who comprised those companies.”
Carlos Ghosn, former chief executive officer of Nissan Motor Co. and Renault SA, gestures as he speaks to the media at the Lebanese Press Syndicate in Beirut, Lebanon, on Wednesday, Jan. 8,. 2020. Ripped from my family, my friends, my communities, from Renault, Nissan and Mitsubishi and the 450,000 women and men who comprise those companies. It is impossible to express the depth of that deprivation and my profound appreciation to once again be able to be reunited with my family and loved ones, Ghosn said. Photographer: Hasan Shaaban/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Hasan Shaaban/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Ghosn has suggested that his arrest was the result of a plot to prevent him from fully merging Nissan with French automaker Renault.
“I was ready to retire before June 2018. … I unfortunately accepted this offer to continue to integrate the two companies,” Ghosn said. “Some of my Japanese friends thought that the only way to get rid of the influence of Renault on Nissan was to get rid of me.”
Hitoshi Kawaguchi, who previously handled government affairs for Nissan; Hidetoshi Imazu, the auto firm’s statutory auditor; and board member Masakazu Toyoda were identified by Ghosn as the three main people behind a plot to topple him.
“With the strings being pulled and manipulated by those dead set on securing a confession or conviction whose only goal is to save face, the facts, truth and justice are irrelevant to these individuals,” he said.
A spokesperson for Nissan was not immediately available for comment when contacted by CNBC.
The former executive also accused the Japanese prosecution of working closely with Nissan. “The collusion between Nissan and the prosecutor is everywhere,” he said.
Ghosn, who also holds French and Brazilian citizenship, made his dramatic escape from Japan while awaiting trial in Tokyo. He had been released from prison last April after posting a $14 million bail.
Ghosn reportedly took Japan’s bullet train from Tokyo to western Osaka, before using a private jet to ferry himself to Istanbul and then switching planes to travel on to the Lebanese capital.
Lebanon, which has no extradition treaty with Japan, has said Ghosn entered the country legally.
Interpol, the international police cooperation body, has issued a “red notice” for Ghosn’s arrest but so far Lebanese authorities have taken no action.
Ghosn said his decision to escape was not difficult.
“You’re going to die in Japan or you have to get out,” he said.