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Explained: Why Carlos Ghosn’s escape from Japan has raised eyebrows

Arrested in Tokyo in November 2018, Ghosn was released on bail in March this year, only to be rearrested within weeks on related charges.

Written by Om Marathe | New Delhi | December 31, 2019 11:20:07 pm
Carlos Ghosn, Carlos Ghosn fleds from Japan, Nissan Carlos Ghosn, Carlos Ghosn lebanon, nissan shares Former Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn. (File Photo)

On Tuesday, Carlos Ghosn, the ousted chairman of Japanese carmaker Nissan, was at his childhood home of Lebanon after fleeing from Japan, where he was awaiting trial for financial crimes.

Arrested in Tokyo in November 2018, Ghosn was released on bail in March this year, only to be rearrested within weeks on related charges. He was again released on a $9 million bail bond with stringent conditions that had raised eyebrows in the West.

Ghosn’s escape has added a new twist to the story, and many have been left guessing how such a high-profile accused was able to flee Japan.

Who is Carlos Ghosn, and what did he do?

Ghosn, aged 65, is of Lebanese descent and was born in Brazil. He holds Lebanese, Brazilian, and French passports.

Beginning his career at Michelin in 1978, Ghosn joined Renault in 1996, where he was credited for bringing about a turnaround in the company’s fortunes, earning the nickname “Le Cost Killer”.

He also dominated the massive 1999 French-Japanese Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance, in which he looked after the three companies together. Ghosn received praise for reviving Nissan in this role.

Then, in 2018, Ghosn was arrested on financial misconduct charges in Japan, after he was accused of hiding his income and profiting from payments to dealerships in the Middle East. Ghosn has denied the allegations.

Out on bail, Ghosn had several harsh restrictions imposed on him, such as not being able to leave Tokyo, not having access to the internet except from his lawyer’s office, and not being able to meet with his friends without informing the court. The court also did not allow Ghosn to have any communication with his wife.

Then on Tuesday, Reuters reported that Ghosn was in his mansion in the Lebanese capital of Beirut, where he enjoys significant popularity despite his fall from grace in Japan. Ghosn’s arrival in Lebanon raised questions on he was able to escape from Japan where he had been under strict surveillance by authorities while out on bail, and had also surrendered his passports with his Japanese lawyers.

In a statement, Ghosn has said, “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’s trial in Japan was expected to begin in April 2020.

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