A Fugitive from Injustice?
“I did not escape justice. I fled injustice,” declared Carlos Ghosn, former Nissan Chairman, after arriving in Lebanon just before the new year. He held a press conference on January 8, 2020, stating: “I’m here to shed light on a system that violates the most basic principles of humanity. I’m here to clear my name….”
The next day Japan’s Minister of Justice Mori Masako responded with a statement urging Ghosn to “engage in all possible efforts to make his case within Japan’s fair criminal justice proceedings”. While also noting: “Defendant Ghosn had indicted for allegedly underreporting his remuneration in securities reports, and for allegedly violating the Companies Act through aggravated breach of trust by having a Nissan subsidiary transfer a massive amount of money to a deposit account in the name of a company effectively owned by him, for his own profit.”
The case is a complex one, with allegations of impropriety made by Japanese prosecutors as well as Nissan executives. The claims include accusations of back-door dealings with distributors to personally profit, defrauding France and Japan of tax dues, and misuse of company assets. The charges extend to Ghosn’s chief of staff, Greg Kelly, who remains in Japan. For his part, Ghosn presented documents and clarifications that he insists exonerate him of any wrongdoing.
So How Carlos Ghosn Case will End?
He framed the charges as fabricated, devised by jealous Nissan executives and officials from the Ministry of Trade, Economy and Industry; who had determined to derail any possibility of a merger between Nissan and its French alliance partner Renault.
The truth cannot be determined by soundbites. Also, the General Public is wary of giving their sympathies to wealthy businessmen. Nevertheless, the Japanese legal system is not immune to question. It has yet again come under scrutiny for its 99% conviction rate; and the doubts such a “success” rate can raise in the judicial process, particularly one where prosecutors hold immense power. In fact, in the rare event, they have sought a release on appeal but it can take a lifetime to materialize. As in the 21 years, it took to confirm nursery schoolteacher Etsuko Yamada’s acquittal for murder. Ultimately, finding the facts should neither be a matter of showmanship nor secrecy but transparency and swiftness.
The questions in this case that elected officials interested in honest judicial proceedings should ask are:a) If the Japanese prosecutor had such a strong case, why it has not been tried since Ghosn’s arrest in November 2018? b) Why were there numerous questionable occurrences throughout the process that give credence to Ghosn’s accusations of prosecutorial misconduct?
Rather than pursue Carlos Ghosn for forfeiting bail and leaving the country, Japanese authorities should establish an investigative committee, supported by competent and independent business and tax experts, to evaluate the credibility of alleged collusion between government officials and a powerful Japanese automaker who may have abused their ties with politicians. No one can excuse Ghosn for fleeing the courts; however, Martin Luther King expressed it best in his 1963 Letter from a Birmingham Jail: “One may well ask: ‘How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?’ The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.”
Carlos Ghosn’s case highlights a seemingly flawed legal system that requires scrutiny and amendment; in order to ensure that the innocent did not sweep away with the guilty. Ghosn may or may not culpable of the charges brought against him; yet the secrecy governing his case as well as its duration lend some credibility to the claim of “hostage justice. The Global Justice Foundation urges Japanese authorities to begin public; transparent proceedings in this case to reassure the global community that Japan puts impartiality of the law above corporate interests.