Carlos Ghosn on the Run

By Todd Horwitz 

Carlos Ghosn Flees Trial

Carlos Ghosn, the former boss of the Nissan-Renault car alliance, said on Tuesday he had left Japan where he was awaiting trial on charges of financial misconduct and arrived in Lebanon. It was not clear how Ghosn, who is of Lebanese descent and holds Lebanese, French and Brazilian citizenship, had departed Japan. Ghosn, 65, was released on bail in Tokyo in April but placed under close surveillance and ordered to surrender his passport.

“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, in flagrant disregard of Japan’s legal obligations under international law and treaties it is bound to uphold,” Ghosn said in a statement.

Representatives for Nissan, the Japanese prosecutors and the Lebanese embassies in Tokyo and Washington did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Government offices and most businesses in Japan were closed ahead of New Year’s Day, the most important holiday on the Japanese calendar.

Mr. Ghosn, 65, is a citizen of Lebanon, where he is legally protected from extradition, as well as of France and Brazil. He spent much of his youth in Beirut and enjoys widespread public support there. A billboard in the city expressed solidarity with the imprisoned executive shortly after his arrest in November 2018. “We are all Carlos Ghosn,” it said.

Mr. Ghosn’s rise in the auto industry was as storied as his recent fall. He joined the French automaker Renault in 1996 as executive vice president overseeing manufacturing, purchasing, research and development, after spending 18 years at Michelin, the tire maker.

After Renault acquired a large stake in Nissan in 1999, Mr. Ghosn was sent to help turn the Japanese company around — an assignment that was seen as impossible for a foreign executive. Though he closed factories and laid off some 21,000 workers, Mr. Ghosn succeeded in reviving the Japanese carmaker. His efforts in the industry have earned him the nickname “Le Cost Killer.”

He was also the architect of Nissan’s alliance with Renault and Mitsubishi Motors of Japan, a partnership that allowed the two automakers to share the cost of developing new models and buying components together. He became the first person to simultaneously serve as chief executive of two major companies.

Todd “Bubba” Horwitz