Carlos Ghosn Cites Japan's Pearl Harbor Attack During Press Conference, Accuses Fellow Nissan Executives of 'Plot' Against Him

Former Nissan chief executive Carlos Ghosn made reference to the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor by Imperial Japan during his impassioned press conference laying out why he fled Tokyo while on bail accused of stealing money from the automaker.

Ghosn, former chairman of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance, escaped from Japan to Lebanon while awaiting trial, accused by Japanese prosecutors of fraudulently using company finances for his personal gain. Ghosn said the "baseless" charges are a conspiracy against him.

Following his dramatic and secret escape from Japan—the circumstances of which he declined to explain—Ghosn gave a press conference on Friday in Beirut. He blamed fellow executives at the alliance for an alleged "plot" with Japanese prosecutors to frame him.

"I am not here to talk about how I managed to leave Japan although I can understand that you are interested in that. I am here to talk about why I left," Ghosn said.

He called himself a "hostage" of Japan, held either in jail or on bail for more than 400 days, including time in solitary confinement, and claimed he was interrogated for hours at a time without a lawyer present or having the charges explained to him. He also alleged he was denied regular contact with family, and that prosecutors threatened to go after them unless he confessed.

When an American colleague asked Ghosn why he did not see the alleged plot unfolding against him, the former auto exec replied: "What happened in Pearl Harbor? Did you see Pearl Harbor happening? Did you notice what happened in Pearl Harbor?"

"I didn't notice it. I didn't notice it because—this is true—when it's planned and it's confidential and it's secret, well it happens and you would be surprised, and I was surprised," Ghosn told reporters at his press conference.

According to Ghosn, he was targeted because of Nissan's declining performance in 2017—at which point he stood down as CEO though he remained chairman—and anger in Japan at Renault's influence on the Alliance. He alleged the Japanese wanted to shake off Renault's power and, to achieve that, sought to remove Ghosn because of his relationship with the French automaker.

He said "prosecutors aided and abetted by petty, vindictive and lawless individuals," who he named during the press conference, leaked "false information" to the media during his detention, and suppressed exculpatory evidence.

Ghosn also pointed to the 99 percent conviction rate for Japanese prosecutors, claiming a fair trial was an "impossibility" that left him with little choice but to flee the country. "I did not escape justice. I fled injustice and political persecution," he said.

Newsweek asked Nissan for comment and this article will be updated if one is provided.

When Ghosn fled the country while on bail, Japanese prosecutors issued a statement condemning the former Nissan chief.

"His escape strongly ignores our country's justice system and we are deeply disappointed by this act, which likely constitutes a crime," said Takahiro Taito, the deputy chief prosecutor, the Financial Times reported.

"On this case, prosecutors have strictly carried out proper procedures in line with the law and the former chairman's rights were sufficiently guaranteed as we conducted our investigation and trial proceedings."

Carlos Ghosn Nissan Japan press conference
Former Renault-Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn raises his hands as he addresses a large crowd of journalists on his reasons for dodging trial in Japan, where he is accused of financial misconduct, at the Lebanese Press Syndicate in Beirut on January 8, 2020. The 65-year-old fugitive auto tycoon vowed to clear his name as he made his first public appearance at a news conference in Beirut since skipping bail in Japan. JOSEPH EID/AFP via Getty Images