Beirut, Tokyo: Update
Ex-Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn on Tuesday confirmed that he had left Japan for Lebanon and lashed out at the "rigged" Japanese justice system, insisting he had not "fled justice".
"I am now in Lebanon and will no longer be held hostage by a rigged Japanese justice system where guilt is presumed, discrimination is rampant, and basic human rights are denied," the tycoon said in a statement.
"I have not fled justice - I have escaped injustice and political persecution," said Ghosn, who vowed to communicate "freely" with the media "starting next week."
It is not clear how he managed to leave Japan, as his bail conditions prevent him from exiting the country he had been held in since his sudden arrest in November 2018 sent shockwaves through the business world.
Ghosn, who holds French, Brazilian and Lebanese citizenship, was able to orchestrate his departure from Japan, given that he had been under strict surveillance by authorities while out on bail and had surrendered his passports.
Japanese immigration authorities had no record of Ghosn leaving the country, Japanese public broadcaster NHK said. A person resembling Ghosn entered Beirut international airport under a different name after flying in aboard a private jet, NHK reported, citing an unidentified Lebanese security official.
His lawyers were still in possession of his three passports, one of his lawyers, Junichiro Hironaka, told reporters in comments broadcast live by NHK.
Hironaka said the first he had heard of Ghosn's departure was on the news this morning and that he was surprised. He also said it was "inexcusable behaviour".
Former Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn, who was awaiting trial in Japan on financial misconduct charges, has flown to Beirut, the latest stunning twist in his rollercoaster journey from boardroom to detention centre.
The 65-year-old, who holds French, Brazilian and Lebanese passports, arrived in Beirut on Monday, a Lebanese security source told AFP, adding: "It's unclear how he left Japan."
The tycoon was preparing for a trial in Tokyo - expected to take place this spring - over multiple charges of financial malpractice that he denies.
Ghosn was on bail in Japan under strict conditions, including a ban on leaving Japan and on communicating with his wife, although the couple were last month allowed a brief conversation via videoconference.
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He and his lawyers have repeatedly voiced fears over the impossibility of a fair trial in Japan and have called for the case to be thrown out, citing mis-steps by the prosecutors' office.
"Carlos Ghosn is not looking to flee his responsibilities, but he's fleeing the injustice of the Japanese system," a source closely involved with the case told AFP, asking not to be identified.
French junior economy minister Agnes Pannier-Runacher said on Tuesday that she was "very surprised" by news that Carlos Ghosn had left Japan and flown to Lebanon, adding she had heard of it via the media.
Pannier-Runacher also told France Inter radio that, regarding Ghosn, no-one was above the law but Ghosn would be able to get French consular support as a French citizen.
Lebanese media reported Ghosn had flown by private plane from Turkey to Lebanon, where his parents were born and where he spent most of his childhood, after arriving there as a toddler.
Many Lebanese view Ghosn as a symbol of their country's large diaspora, and a prime example of Lebanese entrepreneurial genius, so have been shocked by his arrest.
But in Tokyo, the unexpected turn of events will spark questions about how he could apparently have given authorities the slip.
His Japanese lawyers were seemingly caught unawares by Ghosn's travel plans and declined to comment to reporters.
Public broadcaster NHK cited a foreign ministry official as saying: "He was not supposed to leave the country. Had we known about it beforehand, we would have reported that to proper law enforcement authorities."
Government officials could not be reached immediately on a public holiday.
His sudden departure from Japan is nearly as dramatic as his arrest out of the blue on November 19, 2018 at a Tokyo airport.
Prosecutors stormed his private jet in scenes captured by a local paper, and whisked him off to a Tokyo detention centre where he spent more than 100 days in spartan conditions far removed from his sometimes extravagant lifestyle.
He eventually won bail, striding out of the detention centre disguised in a workman's uniform complete with mask and cap in an apparent bid to fool the world's media camped outside.
Then one morning in April, he was rearrested on another set of charges just days before he was due to give a hotly anticipated news conference.
He released a video apparently pre-recorded in which he accused "backstabbing" Nissan executives of a "conspiracy".
Later that month, he was released again on bail - this time leaving in a business suit - and he had been in Tokyo ever since preparing for his trial in "combative" mood, according to his lawyers.
He stands accused of two counts of under-reporting his salary to the tune of 9.23 billion yen ($85 million; Dh312 million) from 2010 to 2018, deferring some of his pay and failing to declare this to shareholders.
Prosecutors also allege he attempted to get Nissan to cover around 1.85 billion yen in personal foreign exchange losses during the 2008 financial crisis.
The fourth charge against him is that he allegedly transferred millions from Nissan funds to a dealership in Oman, from which the executive supposedly skimmed off $5 million for his personal use.
He has consistently denied all charges against him, saying they are a "plot" by Nissan executives to get rid of him because they feared he was moving the Japanese firm to a closer tie-up with Renault.
His lawyers have appealed for the case to be thrown out, claiming several procedural errors by the prosecution.
In the meantime, Ghosn has lost the business empire he was once lauded for creating. Sacked from Nissan and Mitsubishi Motors, he resigned from Renault - the third firm in the uneasy car alliance he forged.