World Japan still haunted a year after its escape

Japan still haunted a year after its escape

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648x415 carlos ghosn lors conference presse 8 janvier 2020 liban

Carlos Ghosn during his press conference, January 8, 2020, in Lebanon. – JOSEPH EID / AFP

A fiasco whose repercussions continue to haunt the country a year later. On December 31, 2019, Japan woke up to discover the flight to Lebanon of Carlos Ghosn, the former boss of Renault-Nissan, indicted for financial embezzlement.

The businessman, on bail in Japan before his trial, evaporated two days earlier from Tokyo to reach Osaka (west of the country) by train with two accomplices. The Franco-Lebanese-Brazilian arrived in Beirut on December 30 after a connection in Istanbul, suspected of having escaped controls at Osaka airport by being hidden in a box of audio equipment.

“I did not flee from justice, I escaped injustice”

The Japanese authorities, as sounded, will take several days to react officially. Their extradition request was quickly rejected, as Beirut did not have an agreement to this effect with Tokyo. Targeted by a request for arrest via Interpol, Carlos Ghosn has however found himself stranded in Lebanon since then. “I did not flee justice, I escaped injustice” he hammered in early January during a conference-show in Beirut in front of cameras around the world. But this spectacular rebound did not put an end to the “Ghosn affair” in Japan, nor abroad where it has many ramifications.

A criminal trial opened in mid-September in Tokyo to try the former Nissan legal officer, the American Greg Kelly, arrested in Japan on the same day as Carlos Ghosn in November 2018 and who, like him, claims his innocence. Greg Kelly is accused of having illegally and knowingly failed to mention in Nissan’s stock reports compensation equivalent to 73 million euros that Carlos Ghosn was supposed to receive later. He faces up to ten years in prison. An acquittal of Greg Kelly would be a “terrible humiliation” for Japanese prosecutors and would also “triumph” Carlos Ghosn, commented Stephen Givens, a Tokyo-based business lawyer, in an article published in October on the Nikkei Asia site. “Prosecutors have put themselves in a dead end situation. Don’t wait for a happy ending, ”he added.

Arbitrary detention in Japan

Another trial started in July in Istanbul to try seven members of the Turkish company that owns the private jet hired for the exfiltration of Carlos Ghosn. And in the United States, two alleged accomplices in his escape, former Green Beret Michael Taylor and his son Peter, were arrested in May with a view to being extradited to Japan. But they filed a new appeal against their extradition in November, following an advisory opinion from the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, which concluded that the process of arrest and detention in Japan of Carlos Ghosn was fundamentally unfair.

Tokyo deemed “totally unacceptable” the opinion of this group of independent experts. The Japanese Ministry of Justice has nevertheless launched this year a reflection on possible reforms of the Japanese judicial system, qualified as “hostage justice” by its detractors, an expression which has spread worldwide since the Ghosn affair. This system is characterized in particular by the length of its police custody: up to 23 days for a single reason for arrest. Interrogations during this phase also take place without a lawyer.

Trials opened in several countries

These conditions make suspects “extremely vulnerable” and encourage them to confess, recently lamented Megumi Wada, a former member of Carlos Ghosn’s defense team in Japan and a researcher at the Japanese Bar Federation (JFBA). A vast reform seems unrealistic, however. Even the JFBA, hardly listened to by the government and carefully avoiding bringing up the Ghosn case, essentially confines itself to demanding respect for rights enshrined in the Japanese Constitution. Another internal debate concerns a possible hardening of the country’s bail system. The use of the electronic bracelet, which does not currently exist in Japan, is in particular being studied.

Nissan also continues to sue its former boss, claiming some 80 million euros in damages in a civil lawsuit in Japan. Carlos Ghosn himself asks Nissan and Mitsubishi Motors for millions of euros in compensation through proceedings in the Netherlands, and has entered into a similar dispute with Renault. He is also concerned by several legal investigations in France, relating in particular to suspicions of misuse of corporate assets at Renault and the Dutch subsidiary of Renault-Nissan, RNBV.

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