The former Nissan chairman awaiting trial in Japan on charges of financial misconduct has fled to Lebanon – defying an overseas travel ban.
Carlos Ghosn said he is not evading justice, but had escaped “injustice and political persecution” under a “rigged” justice system.
The 65-year-old’s abrupt departure is likely to raise questions about how he managed to skip the country.
Ghosn, who holds French, Brazilian and Lebanese citizenship, had been under surveillance while out on bail and had surrendered his passports.
He is reported to have arrived in Beirut aboard a private plane under an assumed name.
In a statement, Ghosn 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, in flagrant disregard of Japan’s legal obligations under international law and treaties it is bound to uphold.
“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.”
Japan does not have an extradition treaty with Lebanon, and it is unclear what steps authorities might take to seek his return.
His departure took prosecutors and his own defence team by surprise.
Ghosn’s lawyer Junichiro Hironaka has condemned his client’s “inexcusable behaviour”.
Ghosn, who also presided over an alliance between the Japan’s Nissan and France’s Renault, is accused of understating his salary while leading the firm, transferring personal financial losses to his employer and diverting Nissan money to enrich himself.
In April, he lashed out at ex-colleagues, accusing them in a video of backstabbing and conspiring against him.
Ghosn claimed some “selfish” executives had “really played a very dirty game” and insisted he was innocent of all charges.
He has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing – accusing Japanese authorities of trumping up charges to prevent a potential merger between Nissan and Renault.
Arrested in November 2018, Ghosn was expected to face trial this coming April.
The charges he faces carry a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison.
Born in Brazil, Ghosn is of Lebanese heritage and grew up in Beirut. He has retained close ties to the country.