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Did Japan Defend Its Justice System?

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  • Tip Bones

Did Japan defend its justice system after Carlos Ghosn’s Flight? You be the judge. Nevertheless, if you are not familiar with who Carlos Ghosn is, he is a Brazilian-born French businessman of Lebanese ancestry who is currently an internationally wanted fugitive. Ghosn has served as the CEO of Michelin North America, chairman, and CEO of Renault, chairman of AvtoVAZ, chairman and CEO of Nissan, and chairman of Mitsubishi Motors. On 19 November 2018, Tokyo District prosecutors arrested Ghosn at 4:30 p.m, upon his re-entry into Japan, aboard a private jet that had come from Lebanon, for questioning over allegations of false accounting. 

Ghosn's top aide Greg Kelly, a Nissan director and former head of human resources, was also arrested upon his arrival from the U.S. that day:

Back to the flight and Fingerprints:

In Beirut, investigators checked the plane for fingerprints, the report said. The Japanese government has started reviewing Ghosn’s escape with Lebanese officials. Its ambassador met with Lebanon’s minister for presidential affairs, according to the state-run National News Agency, and addressed “the ramifications” of Japan’s formal request through Interpol, known as a red notice, for help apprehending the former executive.

No specifications were published, and both sides agreed to maintain contact, the report said. Lebanon has insisted that it played no role in Ghosn’s escape.

Ghosn’s dramatic escape from Japan has put the country’s legal system itself on trial, at least in the domain of public opinion. “I have not fled justice,” he said in a statement last week. “I have escaped injustice and political persecution.”

Japanese defense attorneys have long complained that the system is stacked against them. Prosecutors win percent of their cases. They enjoy immense powers to interview suspects without the presence of their lawyers. And many legal experts state the system depends too much on confessions, extorted under massive pressure.

In that environment, Ghosn’s case presented a quandary for prosecutors, said Steven Davidoff Solomon, a professor at the University of California Berkeley School of Law.

“Japan has a system where everyone pleads guilty,” he said.

Before making bail, Ghosn was held in solitary confinement, with limited access to his lawyers. Once released, he was not authorized to engage with his wife and was forbidden to use the Internet outside his lawyers’ offices. Surveillance cameras watched him come and go from his Tokyo residence.

“The restrictions they were putting on him were extraordinary,” Professor Davidoff Solomon said, “for someone who is not a terrorist, and not accused of a violent crime, like mass murder.”

Final resolution: 

Following Ghosn's arrival in Lebanon, a Tokyo court granted a request by Japanese prosecutors to revoke his bail. While Japan and Lebanon are both members of Interpol and have had diplomatic relations since 1954, there is no extradition agreement between the two countries. Interpol has assigned a red report for his arrest. 

Japanese authorities raided Ghosn's Tokyo apartment on 2 January, scanning for evidence. Separately, some Lebanese lawyers, want Ghosn prosecuted over his 2008 trip to Israel as the chairman of Renault-Nissan, to meet Better Place founder Shai Agassi, which they claim dishonored the Arab League Boycott of Isreal.

Ghosn later addressed reports that his family, including his wife Carole, may have performed a part in his departure from Japan, stating that "such speculation is inaccurate and false." 

On 7 January, prosecutors in Japan assigned an arrest warrant for Carole Ghosn, on suspicion of giving false testimony during a court hearing in April 2019.

Carlos Ghosn held his first press conference since leaving Japan on 8 January 2020, in which he outlined his imprisonment conditions, pleaded innocence, and named Nissan executives who plotted his demise. The next day, Judge Ghassan Ouiedat, a Lebanese prosecutor, imposed a travel ban on Ghosn.