Nissan’s fugitive ex-chairman Carlos Ghosn has described his arrest in Japan, from which he escaped last month, as a plot against him and his detention conditions as a “travesty” against human rights.
In his first appearance since his daring and improbable escape from Japan, Ghosn told a news conference in Beirut that the decision to flee “was the most difficult of my life”.
He was due to stand trial for alleged financial misconduct at the carmaker and on Wednesday again dismissed all allegations against him as untrue.
With big gestures and a five-part slide presentation projected behind him, Ghosn brought his case to the global media and said his view on fleeing Japan was: “You are going to die in Japan or you are going to get out.”
In response, Japan’s justice minister Masako Mori said Ghosn’s comments were unfounded and she wanted to prevent him spreading an “erroneous” understanding abroad.
“None of his claims can justify the fact he fled Japan illegally,” she said.
Chief government spokesman Yoshihide Suga added that whether Ghosn would be extradited was Lebanon’s decision but that Japan would cooperate closely with international organisations “so that Japan’s criminal justice system can be operated appropriately”.
Ghosn said he would not address the details of his escape, which has perplexed and embarrassed Japanese authorities.
Media reports have said he left his Tokyo residence alone, skipping bail despite supposedly rigorous surveillance.
He met two men at a hotel and then took a bullet train to Osaka before boarding a private jet hidden inside a case for musical equipment.
He flew to Istanbul and was then transferred on to another plane bound for Beirut, where he arrived on December 30.
Ghosn portrayed his arrest as a plot linked to a decline in the financial performance of Nissan.
He had been in favour of merging Nissan with industry ally Renault, of which he was also chairman.
“Unfortunately there was no trust. And some of our Japanese friends thought that the only way to get rid of Renault in Nissan is to get rid of me,” he said.
“I should never have been arrested in the first place,” he said.
“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.
Ghosn said he would be ready to stand trial “anywhere where I think I can have a fair trial”.
He declined to say what country that might be.
Lebanon last week received an Interpol-issued wanted notice – a non-binding request to law enforcement agencies worldwide that they locate and provisionally arrest a fugitive.
Lebanon and Japan do not have an extradition treaty, and the Interpol notice does not require Lebanon to arrest him.
Lebanese authorities have said Ghosn entered the country on a legal passport, casting doubt on the possibility they would hand him over to Japan.
At the request of the Japanese government, Interpol published the notice on its website on Wednesday as Ghosn was giving his news conference.
The notice was previously only sent to Interpol’s member governments but not shared with the public.
Ghosn, who is Lebanese and also holds French and Brazilian passports, was expected to go on trial in Tokyo in April.
In earlier statements, he has said he fled to avoid “political persecution” by a “rigged Japanese justice system”.
He also said that he alone organised his departure from Japan and that his wife Carole played no role.
On Tuesday, Tokyo prosecutors obtained an arrest warrant for Mrs Ghosn on suspicion of perjury.
That charge is not related to his escape.
Lebanon’s justice minister said Lebanon has not received any request related to that warrant.
Japanese justice officials acknowledge that it is unclear whether the Ghosns can be brought back to Japan to face charges.
Ghosn’s former employer, Nissan Motor Co, said it was still pursuing legal action against him despite his escape, adding that Ghosn engaged in serious misconduct while leading the Nissan-Renault-Mitsubishi alliance.
Ghosn denies all the charges.
In France, meanwhile, prosecutors are investigating a 50,000-euro (£42,000) gift from the chateau of Versailles to Ghosn, linked to a lavish party there.
Renault alerted French authorities after a company investigation found that Ghosn personally benefited from “an exchange worth 50,000 euros in the framework of a philanthropic accord signed with the Chateau of Versailles”.
Renault said in June that an internal audit with partner Nissan found 11 million euros (£9.3 million) in questionable expenses at their Dutch-based holding linked to Ghosn.
The two carmakers recommended legal action in the Netherlands, where the alliance is based, and ordering Ghosn himself to reimburse the company for some of the expenses.
Earlier in the day, Tokyo prosecutors raided a Japanese lawyer’s office where Ghosn had visited regularly before he fled.
Japanese media reports said prosecutors were likely to have seized a computer to track down how Ghosn escaped and who might have helped him.
An hour before the scheduled press conference, a Lebanese prosecutor said Ghosn will be summoned “in the coming hours” over a visit to Israel more than 10 years ago, according to the state-run National News Agency.
Two Lebanese lawyers had submitted a report to the Public Prosecutor’s Office against Ghosn last week, saying he violated Lebanese law by visiting Israel.
The two neighbouring countries are technically in a state of war.
Prosecutor Ghassan Khoury met with the two lawyers who filed the case on Wednesday and asked them to bring additional evidence, adding he would summon Ghosn in the coming hours.
Ghosn visited Israel in 2008 and met officials including the prime minister and the president.
At the time, he announced the launch of electric cars in Israel.