January 08, 2020

Ghosn Doesn’t Blame Abe for Arrest, Even While Japan Hits Back
(Bloomberg) -- Carlos Ghosn, the auto executive who fled to Lebanon last week to escape trial in Japan, said he doesn’t think that the Japanese government’s efforts to prosecute him were orchestrated by the country’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe.At his first news conference since his arrest in November 2018, held in Beirut, the former chairman and chief executive officer of Nissan Motor Co. and Renault SA accused the Japanese automaker and prosecutors of masterminding his arrest and trial. Even so, Ghosn declined to put the blame on specific government officials, including Japan’s leader. Just a short while later Abe’s own justice minister hit back against Ghosn, accusing him of spreading inaccurate facts and calling on him to make his case in Japan’s courts.At the news conference, Ghosn refrained from naming specific people in the Japanese government, citing the need to avoid creating friction between Lebanon and Japan. While he appeared to offer an olive branch to Abe, Japan’s longest-serving prime minister, Justice Minister Masako Mori was more direct in her criticism.“He has been propagating both within Japan and internationally false information on Japan’s legal system and its practice,” Mori said in a briefing. “That is absolutely intolerable.”Mori added she was aware of criticism against Japan’s criminal justice system, and said there are ongoing efforts to improve it. Even so, “it is my strong hope that he engage in all possible efforts to make his case within Japan’s fair criminal justice proceedings, and that he seek justice rendered by a Japanese court,“ she said.Striking BackSpeaking to reporters in English, French, Arabic and Portuguese, Ghosn offered an energetic and sometimes meandering rebuttal of the accusations against him, while trashing the recent performance of the carmakers and international alliance he formerly ran. He said he left Japan because he didn’t think he would get a fair trial. “I did not escape justice; I fled injustice.”For his part, Abe has avoided making any public comments regarding the case against Ghosn, but Kyodo News reported on Wednesday that he told a party lawmaker at a dinner in Tokyo ahead of the news conference that he had wanted the Ghosn issue “to be tidied up within Nissan in the first place.”Since Ghosn’s escape, Abe’s government has sought cooperation from Lebanon. Lebanese President Michel Aoun has pledged to work with Japan on the issue in a meeting Tuesday with Japan’s ambassador in Beirut, the Japanese Foreign Ministry said in a statement Tuesday.Lebanon’s prosecutor Ghassan Oueidat will listen to Ghosn’s testimony on Thursday after receiving a Red Notice from Interpol, the international police organization, on Japan’s behalf, state-run National News Agency said.(Updates with comments from justice minister in second paragraph.)\--With assistance from Isabel Reynolds and Kae Inoue.To contact the reporters on this story: Sophie Jackman in Tokyo at sjackman5@bloomberg.net;Tsuyoshi Inajima in Tokyo at tinajima@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Emma O'Brien at eobrien6@bloomberg.net, Reed Stevenson, Gearoid ReidyFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
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