Speeding Away From Justice: Ex-Nissan CEO flees “rigged Japanese justice system”

January 31, 2020

2 min read

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What's going on here?

Former Nissan chief executive, Carlos Ghosn, has fled to Lebanon in an attempt to escape the “rigged Japanese justice system”. The Brazilian-born business tycoon was smuggled out of his home in Japan, in breach of his bail conditions. He has sought refuge in Lebanon due to his Lebanese citizenship and his widespread popularity in the country. Reporters are unsure how he was able to flee the country as his three passports remain in Japan.

What does this mean?

After being arrested in Tokyo in November 2018, Ghosn spent the following 108 days in custody. He was then released on bail in March 2019 for $9m, among the highest ever bails paid in Japan. Prosecutors claim that he had underreported his income to regulators whilst working for Nissan, as well as diverting money from company accounts to cover potential trading losses. He has also been accused of transferring Nissan funds to a dealership in Oman, partially for personal use. Nissan fired Ghosn shortly after his arrest.

Ghosn is adamant that he did not flee justice and has vehemently denied all charges; he states instead that ”guilt is presumed, discrimination is rampant and basic human rights are denied” in Japan. As there is no extradition treaty between Lebanon and Japan, it is unlikely that he will be forced to return to Tokyo to face trial. His lawyers claim that Ghosn has fallen victim to a boardroom coup, stating that fellow Nissan board members were intent on preventing a potential merger of Nissan and Renault (Nissan’s largest shareholder). In light of this, Ghosn’s legal team has asked the court to dismiss all charges.

What's the big picture effect?

This case certainly highlights the Japanese justice system. The Code of Criminal Procedure in Japan allows suspects to be detained up to 23 days before indictment. During this pre-indictment period, detainees are interrogated and are not able to request bail. The exercise of the right to remain silent does not halt the questioning process and suspects are not allowed to have lawyers present during the questioning. It is also far more difficult for those who have not confessed, or have chosen the right to remain silent, to persuade a judge to grant bail due to the perceived risk of evidence destruction. 

Interpol has recently released a red notice for the arrest of Ghosn. As the red notice is not an arrest warrant, the member countries of Interpol are not under an obligation to detain the targeted person. Ghosn will likely be able to remain in Lebanon without fear of extradition, however the red notice will restrict his ability to cross international borders. Developments in this case will highlight the effectiveness of prosecuting cross-border white-collar crimes.

Report written by Emily Noble

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