London - The wife of the former car industry boss who slipped away from house arrest in Japan to avoid corruption charges said his escape was the ‘best gift of my life’.
Carole Ghosn, 53, is understood to have helped plan her husband Carlos’s departure from underneath the noses of Japanese authorities.
The ex-boss of Nissan and Renault, who was awaiting trial in Tokyo over £65million corruption charges, was reported to have been spirited away inside a double bass case.
His wife on Wednesday refused to reveal how he vanished from his luxury Tokyo apartment which had been under surveillance.
Mr Ghosn’s escape is said to have taken his associates weeks to plan. He is currently living with his wife at a house owned by one of her relatives in his ancestral homeland of Lebanon.
The 65-year-old flew to Beirut via Turkey on a private jet, with even the pilot not aware of his passenger.
He entered Lebanon legally with a French passport and a Lebanese identification card on Monday morning. ‘It was a very professional operation from start to finish,’ one associate said yesterday.
Stringent conditions on his freedom, such as a £10million bail payment and handing in his three passports, did not stop him from being smuggled out by a private security company. He will forfeit the bail money.
In a text message to The Wall Street Journal, Mrs Ghosn described being reunited with her husband as the ‘best gift of my life’. The tycoon fled after becoming unhappy with the restrictions placed on him by the Japanese legal system.
The Tokyo court denied his request to contact his wife over the festive season. At a Christmas Day hearing, he believed the court was stalling and feared the case might not be heard until 2021.
Mr Ghosn wants to clear his name by seeking a trial in Lebanon, where he is regarded as a national hero.
Lebanese law allows for citizens to be prosecuted for crimes abroad if the offence is also an offence in Lebanon. Japanese prosecutors insist Mr Ghosn would get a fair trial in Toyko. However, a source close to the Ghosn family said: ‘He couldn’t see his wife. He couldn’t get dates for his trial. It was humiliation. It was moral torture.’
Some reports said Mr Ghosn was greeted warmly by Lebanese President Michel Aoun on arrival, although this was denied by the president’s spokesman.
Associates said Mr Ghosn is in a ‘buoyant and combative mood’ and being protected by Lebanese security officials. Lebanon does not have an extradition treaty with Japan, meaning Mr Ghosn is untouchable by Japanese authorities without co-operation.
Mr Ghosn, who has an estimated fortune of £91million, was arrested at a Tokyo airport in November 2018 on allegations he understated his pay by more than £61millon and siphoned off millions of pounds from Nissan money to subsidise his lavish lifestyle, including the purchase of luxury homes in Paris, Rio de Janeiro, Amsterdam and Beirut.
Mr Ghosn, who was held in a detention centre for more than 100 days, has denied any wrongdoing, accusing Nissan of ‘plotting’ his downfall amid fears he would force the carmaker into a full merger with Renault.
While awaiting trial, he was sacked as chief executive of Nissan and chairman of Mitsubishi Motors – the third firm in the car alliance he forged. He resigned as CEO of Renault. In a statement, he said: ‘I have not fled justice – I have escaped injustice and political persecution.’
Japanese media lambasted the tycoon. ‘Running away is a cowardly act that mocks Japan’s justice system,’ the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper said.