The fugitive former boss of Nissan, Carlos Ghosn, is set to give a press conference within days to provide details of his dramatic flight from Japan and defend himself against charges of financial misconduct, a friend has said.
Mr Ghosn arrived in Lebanon earlier this week after fleeing Japan, where he was being kept under surveillance ahead of a trial expected in April.
Details of his flight have not yet been confirmed, but widespread reports suggest that he was smuggled out inside a musical instrument case.
Ricardo Karam, a Lebanese TV host, declined to explain how his friend managed to elude Japanese security agencies.
“He is going to give a press conference in a couple of days and will go through his journey, how it started and how it ended in Beirut the day before yesterday,” Mr Karam told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. “It was a long journey and I think he is the only who who can talk about it.”
He added: “He is in good shape, he is physically well and he is ready to tackle the new year with a lot of enthusiasm and positivity. He is fine.”
Mr Karam denied that the former Nissan chairman was fleeing justice, insisting that he had been subjected to an “oppressive” legal system which worked on a presumption of guilt rather than innocence.
“No one can admit to being held hostage and deprived of his most basic rights for the sole purpose of extracting confessions from him,” he said. “I would call that psychological torture. It is a system of unacceptable psychological torture. The courage of this man – guilty or not – is admirable. How he made it to Lebanon, in a box or not, these are details. Carlos Ghosn has, I believe, been facing a struggle between giant industrial interests.”
Mr Karam said Mr Ghosn had been denied the chance to defend himself publicly in Japan. “What do they fear?” he asked. “Let him say out loud what he knows, what happened, what he did and let him defend himself.
“He is definitely preparing this press conference. He knows that he is going to have a long trial and he is ready for that. Carlos Ghosn, with his journey and what he has achieved, is not somebody who accepts being a fugitive, a criminal. He is here to counter every single accusation and we believe a fair legal system will give its verdict in the end.”
Ghosn has been on bail in Tokyo since April and is facing charges of hiding income and financial misconduct. He has denied the charges. He had been under strict bail conditions in Japan after spending more than 120 days in detention. Lebanon-based paper Al-Joumhouriya said Ghosn arrived in Beirut from Turkey aboard a private jet.
The 65-year-old’s abrupt departure will raise urgent questions about how one of the world’s most recognised executives was able to leave Japan months before a high-profile court case.
In a brief statement issued on Tuesday, Mr Ghosn said: “I am now in Lebanon and will no longer be held hostage by a rigged Japanese justice system where guilt is presumed, discrimination is rampant, and basic human rights are denied.
“I have not fled justice – I have escaped injustice and political persecution. I can now finally communicate freely with the media, and look forward to starting next week.”