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Ghosn claims Nissan colluded with Japan prosecutors over 'staged arrest'

Carlos Ghosn said he had "no choice" but to flee at his first appearance since his brazen escape from Japan.
Carlos Ghosn said he had "no choice" but to flee at his first appearance since his brazen escape from Japan. © Mohamed Azakir, Reuters

Carlos Ghosn, speaking publicly for the first since his dramatic escape from Japanese justice, told reporters in Beirut he had been treated "brutally" by Tokyo prosecutors, whom he accused of conspiring with Nissan to oust him as head of the automaker.

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Ghosn, who denies any wrongdoing, fled charges of financial misconduct in Japan including allegedly under-reporting his compensation to the tune of $85 million.

Addressing a large crowd of journalists in the Lebanese capital, the one-time car industry titan said he was "presumed guilty" by Japanese prosecutors and had "no choice" but to jump bail.

Ghosn alleged "collusion" between Nissan and Japanese prosecutors over his arrest, which he described as "staged".

Dismissing all allegations against him as untrue, he said he had been "ripped" from friends and family when arrested, in what he described as a "travesty" of justice.

“I’m not above the law and I welcome the opportunity for the truth to come out and have my name cleared,” he told a packed room of journalists.

He added that he would be ready to stand trial "anywhere where I think I can have a fair trial".

Ghosn was awaiting trial in Japan on charges of financial misconduct when he slipped away from his Tokyo residence, crossed Japan on a bullet train and was smuggled onto charter jets that delivered him from Osaka to Lebanon via Istanbul.

His bail jump has prompted outrage from the Japanese government, which has called his escape "unjustifiable", as well as from Nissan, which labelled the getaway "extremely regrettable".

Many were hoping Ghosn would disclose details of his audacious escape during Wednesday’s press conference, but Ghosn told reporters he was "not here to talk" about how he fled Japan.

In a comment that was bound to cause further upset in Japan, he appeared to compare his arrest to the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbour in 1941.

"I didn't suspect anything ... Did you see Pearl Harbour happening?" he quipped to reporters.

Prosecutors slam 'one-sided' account

Ghosn said the charges against him stem from a "coup" inside Nissan by disgruntled executives and Japanese officials who feared his plans to more closely integrate the car giant with its alliance partner, French firm Renault.

Asked how high the alleged conspiracy went, the 65-year-old said he did not believe Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was involved.

In a further jab at his former colleagues, Ghosn said that Nissan's stock market value had fallen by $40 million a day since his arrest, while that of Renault had slumped by 20 million euros daily.

Shortly after the press conference, Tokyo prosecutors issued a statement slamming the former Nissan chief's "one-sided" and "unacceptable" criticism of Japan's legal system.

The Tokyo prosecutor's office also said claims they had colluded with Nissan were "categorically false and contrary to fact".

The prosecutors said Ghosn had "only himself to blame for being arrested", accusing him of having "flagrantly disregarded Japanese law to avoid the consequences of the crimes he committed".

>> A look back on Carlos Ghosn's fall from grace:

(FRANCE 24 with AP, REUTERS)

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