In a wide-ranging interview with The Associated Press, former star auto executive Carlos Ghosn shared his frustrations surrounding his stunning downfall and delved into his legal troubles in Japan, France and the Netherlands, his brazen escape from Japan and his new life trapped in Lebanon.
Here are five key takeaways from the encounter:
CLEARING HIS NAME
Ghosn says he is ready to be questioned by French investigative judges in Beirut next week. He is anxious to tell his side of the story and sees it as an opportunity to go on the record for the first time since his arrest in November 2018. The investigators intend to question him about payments he made as the head of Renault SA and other probes of alleged financial misconduct, and could hand him preliminary charges. The voluntary meetings are expected to take place at the Justice Palace in Beirut over a period of one week. Ghosn says he has prepared thoroughly with his lawyers and intends to submit supporting documents.
In the interview, Ghosn strongly defended former Nissan executive Greg Kelly, who was arrested with him and is now standing trial in Japan on charges of under-reporting Ghosn’s compensation. He described him, as well as two Americans who allegedly helped him escape and are now in a Japanese jail awaiting trial, as “collateral damage” in what he insists was an organized plot against him. Ghosn said he was not responsible for that. Kelly is “obviously innocent,” Ghosn said.
Ghosn said he will appeal a Dutch court’s decision ordering him to repay nearly 5 million euros ($6 million) in salary he received from an Amsterdam-based joint venture between Nissan and Mitsubishi Motors Corp. in 2018. The ruling came in a case in which Ghosn sought to have his 2018 sacking from Nissan-Mitsubishi B.V. overturned and demanded 15 million euros ($16.5 million) in compensation. Ghosn said he was shocked by the court’s judgment which he said was made on a technicality. “Obviously it’s an upset,” Ghosn said.
Ghosn recalled details of his Hollywood-style dramatic escape in late 2019 from Japan to Lebanon. He told the AP how the details of the plan were hatched, including choosing to execute it in December less people were likely to recognize him under a hat and heavy clothes and when a lot of people would be travelling in and out. “It was very bold, but because it was bold, I thought it may be successful,” he said. Ghosn refused to confirm that he escaped from Japan in a musical instrument box, saying he didn’t want to say anything that could be used against people accused of assisting in his escape.
LIFE IN LEBANON
Ghosn said he is adapting to the reality of life in Lebanon, where he grew up and is regarded as a hero, and says he feels safe and “free” here. He says he spends his days poring over documents with lawyers preparing legal defense, teaching at a university, helping start-ups and working on his books and documentaries. It is a slower pace than the one he was used to, with the advantage of having time to enjoy coffee with his wife and talking extensively with his children. His new reality includes being stuck in a deeply unstable country in the grips of an unprecedented economic crisis and a banking collapse. He says he spent six months repairing his Beirut home after it was damaged in the massive explosion at Beirut port last summer.