Waking from a week-long national holiday, Japan’s institutions are being spurred into action by Carlos Ghosn’s daring escape, which has shocked the nation and exposed shortfalls in its bail system and border control.
The country’s transport and justice ministries moved to close the loopholes Ghosn and his team exploited to spirit away one of the most recognisable faces in the country, and Nissan Motor Co pledged it would continue to take “appropriate legal action” against its former chairperson and CEO.
Ghosn himself said he would “name names” of those responsible for his fall, including people in the Japanese government, when he speaks in a highly anticipated briefing in Beirut later this week. He’s expected to argue that his arrest for financial crimes in Japan was part of a plot at the carmaker to take him down.
Ghosn fled to Lebanon a week ago to escape what he described as a “rigged Japanese justice system.”
It was the latest twist in a yearlong saga that began with his shock arrest at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport, saw him detained for months before being released on bail, then re-arrested and bailed out again. Ghosn was under house arrest, facing trial for multiple alleged crimes when he abruptly announced he had slipped through what was thought to be a tight security net.
Itsunori Onodera, a former defense minister and now head of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s research commission on national security, said Japan should be concerned about the impact of the forthcoming “attacks” that Ghosn will level at Japan’s reputation.
“Ghosn is likely to heavily attack Japan’s systems or its corporate culture,” Onodera told Bloomberg News. “Those remarks will be transmitted to the world and inflict large damage on Japan. We should be worried not just about his escape, but also about the impact” of his remarks, he said.
The government should respond appropriately, he said.
In a flurry of briefings following the year’s first cabinet meeting, ministers moved to close off the loopholes that Ghosn’s extraction team, which included an former Green Beret, had identified to get him out of the country.
Transport Minister Kazuyoshi Akaba said he had ordered compulsory inspection of cargo for private jets at four major airports, checks which had until now been at the discretion of the jet’s pilot. This appears to be one of the loopholes used by Ghosn, who hid in a large black case that was too big for the X-ray machines at the private aircraft terminal at Kansai International Airport in Osaka.
Justice Minister Masako Mori said she would consult with the ministry’s legislative council as soon as possible to discuss possible legal changes to prevent future escapes by suspects on bail. Kyodo News reported yesterday that GPS trackers, which aren’t currently used in Japan, were under consideration, following widespread shock that perhaps the most recognizable foreigner in Japan was able to simply walk out his front door and take a bullet train to Osaka. Mori again declined to give any details around how Ghosn fled, and defended the country’s legal system, which has been repeatedly attacked by Ghosn.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, the government’s top spokesman, said Japan had told Lebanon that it finds Ghosn’s escape from Japan “highly regrettable,” and called on Lebanon to cooperate with its investigation.
Nissan gave its first official response to the escape, saying the automaker will take “appropriate legal action” against Ghosn for any harm caused to the company, maintaining its stance of holding him responsible for serious misconduct.
“The consequences of Ghosn’s misconduct have been significant,” the automaker said in a statement. “Carlos Ghosn’s escape to the Lebanese Republic without the court’s permission in violation of his bail conditions is an act that defies Japan’s judicial system.”
“The internal investigation found incontrovertible evidence of various acts of misconduct by Ghosn, including misstatement of his compensation and misappropriation of the company’s assets for his personal benefit,” the statement continued.
“Nissan will continue to do the right thing by cooperating with judicial and regulatory authorities wherever necessary.”
With profits at decade lows and its stock tanking, Nissan is rife with internal divisions over the ouster of its former leader and the way forward.
Ghosn plans to give the names of people he believes are behind a “coup” to take him down, including those of some in the Japanese government, when speaks on Wednesday in Beirut, according to Fox Business Network’s Maria Bartiromo, who said she spoke to him last weekend.
Ghosn has previously asserted that there was a conspiracy behind his arrest and removal from power at Nissan, but stopped short of identifying those he believes were involved while he was in Japan. In a pre-recorded video in April before a scheduled press conference he initially sought to reveal Nissan executives who he claimed turned on him, though that segment was edited out in the version released to the public.
Ghosn told Fox that he’ll say at the Beirut briefing that he’s willing to have his case heard by any court, aside from those in Japan.