Nissan ex-chair set for first public appearance after escape

FILE - This March, 2019, file photo shows former Nissan Chairman Carlos Ghosn, right, and his wife Carole in Tokyo. Tokyo prosecutors issued an arrest warrant Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2020 for the wife of Nissan's former chairman, Carlos Ghosn, on suspicion of perjury. (Kyodo News via AP, File)

The disgraced former chairman of Nissan is expected to speak to journalists in Beirut on Wednesday, more than a week after his dramatic escape from Japan ahead of his trial for alleged financial misconduct.

The highly anticipated news conference by Carlos Ghosn will be first public appearance since he smuggled himself from Tokyo to Beirut, landing in the Lebanese capital where he grew up and is regarded by many as a national hero.

Dozens of local and international journalists are expected to attend. Lebanese authorities have not made any comments about the news conference and it was not immediately clear whether they intend to summon him for questioning.

Ghosn’s daring and improbable escape has perplexed and embarrassed Japanese authorities after he skipped bail and managed to flee the country despite supposedly rigorous surveillance.

Media reports have said that he left his residence alone, met two men at a Tokyo 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 onto another plane bound for Beirut, where he arrived Dec. 30.

Lebanese authorities have said Ghosn entered the country on a legal passport, casting doubt on the possibility they would hand him over to Japan. 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.

Ghosn, who is Lebanese and also holds French and Brazilian passports, was set to go on trial in Japan in April. In statements, he has said he fled to avoid “political persecution” by a “rigged Japanese justice system.” He also said that he alone organized his departure from Japan and that his wife, Carole, played no role.

On Tuesday, Tokyo prosecutors obtained an arrest warrant for Carole Ghosn on suspicion of perjury. That charge is not related to his escape. Lebanon’s justice minister said Tuesday that Lebanon has not received any request related to that warrant.

Japanese justice officials acknowledge that it’s 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.

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