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Carlos Ghosn escape: Reports are inaccurate

Jan 14, 2020, 12:28 PM
Carlos Ghosn escape...
Former Nissan Chairman Carlos Ghosn speaks to Japanese media during an interview in Beirut, Lebanon, Friday, Jan. 10, 2020. A lawyer for Carlos Ghosn, Nissan's former chairman who skipped bail in Japan and fled to Lebanon, on Friday slammed a gaffe by the Japanese justice minister who said that Ghosn should “prove" his innocence. Ghosn, who was awaiting trial on financial misconduct charges, fled Tokyo and appeared in Beirut Dec. 30. (Meika Fujio/Kyodo News via AP)
(Meika Fujio/Kyodo News via AP)

(CNN) — Carlos Ghosn admits he broke Japanese law when he fled the country for Lebanon last week. But not all the reports of his stunning escape are true, the former auto executive told CNN Business.

“There are many rumors,” Ghosn told Richard Quest in an interview Wednesday. “And they are not all in line.”

Ghosn said he feels “bad” that some of the people who aided him now face potential prosecution in Turkey, where he switched planes on his way out of Japan. However, everyone involved knew what could happen, he said.

“We knew from the beginning what are the risks, you know, involved [in] an operation like this,” Ghosn said. “We all knew that. I knew what were my risks, I knew what were the risks of all the people who supported the operation.”

Ghosn — the former chairman of Nissan and the architect of its powerful alliance with Renault and Mitsubishi Motors — had been awaiting trial in Japan on charges of financial wrongdoing.

Earlier Wednesday, in his first public appearance since his escape, Ghosn denounced his arrest as part of a plot to oust him from power, while blasting Japan’s legal system as stacked against defendants.

He told CNN Business that he made the decision to flee the country several weeks ago after determining he wouldn’t receive a fair trial.

“I didn’t leave Japan to hide somewhere,” Ghosn said. “I left Japan because I’m looking for justice and I want to clear my name,” he said, claiming he was nervous but felt he had “nothing to lose.”

Ghosn pushed back on the idea that it would be difficult to persuade the public of his innocence while remaining a fugitive.

“People don’t like [a] fugitive when the fugitive is escaping justice. It’s a different opinion when a fugitive is escaping injustice,” he said. “I don’t think that people look at people who run from North Korea, or from Vietnam, or from Russia under the Communist regime as people who are running from justice.”

Asked about media reports that he made it past Japanese authorities and onto a private plane by hiding in a box used to store audio equipment, Ghosn chuckled. He initially declined to comment, before continuing: “Freedom, no matter the way it happens, is always sweet.”

Authorities have been scrambling to figure out how Ghosn pulled off the escape. Last week, Turkish police launched an investigation, detaining seven people on suspicion of involvement in the plot. A Turkish private jet operator said one of its employees admitted to falsifying records.

Japanese prosecutors said Wednesday that they are determined to “take whatever measure we have in our power to bring defendant Ghosn to justice in Japan.”

Ghosn said he is willing to face trial outside the country.

“Defendant Carlos Ghosn fled from Japan by acting in a way that could constitute a crime in itself,” Japanese prosecutors said in a statement following Ghosn’s public remarks. “His statements during his press conference today failed to justify his acts.”

In a separate statement, Japanese Justice Minister Masako Mori said that Ghosn “has been propagating both within Japan and internationally false information on Japan’s legal system and its practice.”

“That is absolutely intolerable,” she said.

International police agency Interpol last week released a “red notice” alerting Lebanese authorities that Ghosn is wanted by Japanese police. Ghosn has been summoned to face questioning on Thursday about the notice by Lebanon’s state prosecutor judge Ghassan Oueidat, according to a statement released through the country’s national news agency Wednesday.

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Carlos Ghosn escape: Reports are inaccurate