Japan calls former Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn's escape 'unjustifiable'

Mr Ghosn skipped bail and fled Japan where he was awaiting trial over multiple counts of financial misconduct

(FILES) This file photo taken on April 25, 2019 shows former Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn (L) being escorted as he walks out of the Tokyo Detention House following his release on bail in Tokyo. Carlos Ghosn's escape from Japan is "unjustifiable" and he is thought to have left the country using "illegal methods", the Japanese justice minister said on January 5, 2020, in the first official public comments on the case. - Japan OUT
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The escape of former Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn is "unjustifiable", the Japanese justice minister said on Sunday in the first official public comments on the case.

Mr Ghosn, 65, skipped bail and fled Japan, where he was awaiting trial over several charges of financial misconduct. He denies those charges.

It was the latest twist in a saga that has gripped the business world and his escape has left Japanese authorities red-faced and scrambling to defend their justice system from international criticism.

"Our country's criminal justice system sets out appropriate procedures to clarify the truth of cases and is administered appropriately, while guaranteeing basic individual human rights. The flight by an accused on bail is unjustifiable," the country's justice minister, Masako Mori, said.

"It is clear that we do not have records of the accused Ghosn departing Japan. It is believed that he used some wrongful methods to illegally leave the country. It is extremely regrettable that we have come to this situation."

She confirmed Mr Ghosn's bail was cancelled and that an Interpol "red notice" was issued.

The public prosecutors office said Mr Ghosn committed a crime by fleeing. He "knowingly flouted" the country's judicial procedures, it said.

In their first remarks since Mr Ghosn escape before the New Year, prosecutors said the escape vindicated their argument that he should have been kept in custody.

"The accused Ghosn had abundant financial power and multiple foreign bases. It was easy for him to flee," prosecutors said.

He had "significant influence" inside Japan and across the world, while there was a "realistic danger" he would destroy evidence related to the case, they said.

The Ghosn case put the international spotlight on Japan's judicial system, which came under heavy scrutiny for authorities' ability to hold suspects almost indefinitely pending trial.

Mr Ghosn twice won bail by persuading the court he was not a flight risk, rulings that were considered controversial at the time.

Prosecutors said it was necessary to detain suspects for a lengthy period of time to prove guilt beyond doubt.

They said they were unwilling to charge a suspect if the case was not ironclad.

"Therefore it was necessary and unavoidable to detain the accused Ghosn in order to continue fair and appropriate criminal proceedings," they said.

Mr Ghosn appeared in court once, under a little-used procedure to ask why he was still being detained.

At this appearance, he said he was eager to defend himself at a trial and clear his name.

However, prosecutors said that by fleeing Japan, Mr Ghosn "violated that oath" and "refused to obey the judgment of our nation's court".

"He wanted to escape punishment for his own crime. There is no way to justify this act," they said.

Mr Ghosn said he left Japan because he was no longer willing to be "held hostage by a rigged Japanese justice system".

Amid fanciful accounts of a Houdini-like escape from Japan, security camera footage obtained by Japanese public broadcaster NHK appears to show Mr Ghosn simply walked out of his house before boarding a private jet to Beirut via Istanbul.

Japan has launched an investigation into the security lapse that allowed him to leave and prosecutors said they would "co-ordinate with the relevant agencies to swiftly and appropriately investigate the matter".

The former Nissan chairman has promised to give his account at a press conference in Beirut this week.