BEIRUT: Ousted Nissan boss turned fugitive Carlos Ghosn started his long-anticipated speech Wednesday by saying he was proud to be Lebanese. “I am today proud to be Lebanese and if there is any country in the world that stood by me in these difficulties it is Lebanon,” Ghosn said from the Lebanese Press Syndicate in Beirut, during his first public appearance since fleeing Japan.
He also offered to use his expertise to help Lebanon, if asked, as it grapples with a financial crisis, although “not as a politician.”
Ghosn said that he wouldn’t talk about how he fled Japan, but that he was speaking to clear his name and shed light on a system that he said violated basic human rights.
During the nearly three-hour news conference Ghosn was asked by a reporter whether he would offer his expertise to help Lebanon’s current economic crisis. He responded that he would be “willing to use my expertise to serve Lebanon if asked, but not as a politician.”
He said he was aiming to clear his name and that he would continue to fight. “I don’t consider myself a prisoner in Lebanon ... I’m ready to stay a long time,” he said. The details of Ghosn’s astonishing escape from Japan has been shrouded in secrecy, with news outlets speculating how he was able to leave the country undetected. Japanese news agency Kyodo reported Monday that Ghosn had began his escape with a bullet train ride from Tokyo to Osaka before flying to Beirut via Turkey.
However, he refused Wednesday to go into detail of his escape .
Ghosn was forbidden from leaving Japan while awaiting trial on charges of financial misconduct but he fled at the end of 2019 to escape what he called a “rigged” justice system.
He denied any allegations brought against him, adding that his suffering was a result of a handful of “unscrupulous individuals at Nissan” and that he was left with no choice but to flee.
Ghosn claimed that Nissan had lost $40 million per day since his arrest in 2018. “The market cap decrease of Nissan since my arrest is more than $10 billion. They lost more than $40 million a day during all this period,” he said.
“The reason for my arrest was for a compensation that was not fixed, not decided, not paid,” Ghosn said.
Ghosn rattled off the conditions of his 130-day confinement, including being placed in solitary confinement, eight-hour interrogations and only being permitted to leave his cell for 30 minutes a day.
Japan’s Justice Minister Mori Masako released a statement saying Ghosn had been “propagating both within Japan and internationally false information on Japan’s legal system and its practice. That is absolutely intolerable.”
As he was speaking Wednesday, the Lebanese judiciary summoned Ghosn to appear for questioning after having received a Red Notice alert from Interpol.
The state-run National News Agency reported that State Prosecutor Ghassan Oueidat ordered Ghosn to appear at the Judicial Palace Thursday to give his testimony over the Red Notice alert from Interpol.
The Interpol Red Notice calls on authorities to arrest a wanted person but does not compel them to do so. Even so, the risk of detention abroad will be higher than if he remains in Lebanon, extradition lawyers said.
Lebanon does not have a formal extradition treaty with Japan. While Japan could still lodge an ad hoc request, Lebanon’s laws prohibit the extradition of Lebanese nationals to foreign states. Ghosn has Lebanese, French and Brazilian nationality.
Ghosn said he had received no assurances from the public prosecutor, who has summoned Ghosn for questioning Thursday.
Ghosn has also been ordered to respond to a lawsuit filed by a group of Lebanese lawyers against the former Nissan CEO for entering Israel and meeting with Israeli officials.
However, during the news conference, Ghosn offered an apology to the Lebanese people.
“Of course I apologize for the visit and I was very moved that the Lebanese people were affected by it. The last thing I wanted to do was hurt the Lebanese people,” Ghosn said.
During the visit, Ghosn met Israel’s former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who was premier at the time of the 2006 war between Israel and the Iran-backed Lebanese group Hezbollah.
Nearly 1,200 Lebanese, mostly civilians, died in the 2006 war and 158 people died in Israel, mostly soldiers.
This article was amended on Friday, January 10 2020
This article has been updated with the correct date of Ghosn's speech.