1 Jan 2020

Carlos Ghosn lawyer stunned as Nissan ex-boss flees Japan for Lebanon

9:37 am on 1 January 2020

A lawyer for former Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn says he is "dumbfounded" by the news that his client has fled to Lebanon after jumping bail in Japan.

Carlos Ghosn leaves the attorney office in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo on March 6, 2019.

It remains unclear how Mr Ghosn managed to leave Japan, where he was awaiting trial. Photo: AFP

"We were completely caught by surprise," defence team head Junichiro Hironaka told reporters, adding that he had not spoken with Ghosn.

On Tuesday, Nissan's ex-CEO, who was awaiting trial on financial misconduct charges, confirmed he had left Japan.

He said he had not fled justice but escaped "political persecution".

The 65-year-old was one of the most powerful figures in the global car industry until his arrest in November 2018.

He was born in Brazil to parents of Lebanese descent and was raised in Beirut, before travelling to France for further education.

The French and Lebanese foreign ministries say they have no knowledge of the circumstances of Mr Ghosn's departure from Japan and subsequent arrival in Lebanon.

Lebanese media has said he flew in on a private jet in via Turkey.

What did his lawyer say?

Junichiro Hironaka, a chief lawyer of Carlos Ghons, speaks to media in Tokyo on December 31, 2019.

Junichiro Hironaka, a chief lawyer of Carlos Ghons, speaks to media in Tokyo on December 31, 2019. Photo: AFP

"I am dumbfounded," Hironaka told reporters later on Tuesday. "I don't even know if we can contact him. I don't know how we will proceed beyond that."

He added that his legal team was still in possession of his passports.

Ghosn was released on $9m bail in April under strict conditions that barred him from travelling abroad.

How he could have left Japan remains unclear. It is not known whether he was holding duplicate passports - as some businesspeople are sometimes allowed to do.

There was video surveillance of his home, and he had restricted phone and computer usage.

What did Carlos Ghosn say?

Ghosn released a statement after news agencies on Monday reported he had travelled to Lebanon.

Confirming he had gone to the Middle Eastern country, Ghosn said he would "no longer be held hostage by a rigged Japanese justice system where guilt is presumed, discrimination is rampant, and basic human rights are denied.

"I have not fled justice - I have escaped injustice and political persecution."

What charges does Carlos Ghosn face?

Once considered a hero in Japan for turning around Nissan - even becoming the subject of a Japanese comic book - Ghosn spent 108 days in custody after his arrest in Tokyo in November 2018.

Nissan sacked him three days after his arrest.

Prosecutors allege that he underreported his salary and diverted money from the carmaker to cover potential personal trading losses.

He is also accused of transferring Nissan funds to a dealership in Oman, and skimming off $5m for his personal use. Ghosn denies all the charges.