Former Nissan Chairman Carlos Ghosn said Wednesday he secretly fled to Lebanon from Japan and became an international fugitive because he felt compelled to clear his name rather than die in the Asian country.
"It's not very difficult to come conclusion: You're going to die in Japan or you're going to have to get out," Ghosn said during an internationally broadcast press conference in Beirut — marking his first public comments since his November 2018 arrest in Japan and escape last week to Lebanon. "This was not about justice. I felt I was a hostage of the country that I have served for 17 years."
Ghosn described his captivity in Japan as a "nightmare" that included intense interrogations of up to eight hours a day, without access to a lawyer, and threats that if he didn't confess, his family would suffer.
"The feeling of hopelessness was profound," he said. He later added, "I left Japan because I wanted justice. It is the only way to reestablish my reputation. If I don't get it in Japan, I will get it somewhere else."
Ghosn said he escaped because he had "zero chance" of getting a fair trial in Japan. The final issue that broke him, he said, was when he realized prosecutors wouldn't allow him to see his wife, Carole, whom he married in 2016.
"I wanted to see my wife ... They knew I loved Carole and she is a pillar for me. They knew this because they had all the correspondence," he said, adding that prosecutors took the couple's emails. When Ghosn realized he couldn't see his wife, he said to himself "'what's left? What's left … I have nothing here.'"
Ghosn declined to discuss the details of his escape, which reportedly included a former U.S. Army Green Beret and the ex-executive hiding in a music equipment case. He spent much of the press conference discussing his treatment in Japan and laying out why he believes his arrest was a result of a conspiracy by Nissan executives and others to take him down.
"This is political ... I am innocent of all the charges and I can prove it now," Ghosn said after condemning the Japanese justice system and Nissan executives that were involved in the alleged conspiracy.
Nissan executives involved in the alleged conspiracy, according to Ghosn, included former CEO Hiroto Saikawa, who resigned in September, and Hari Nada, a former senior vice president, among others.
A spokesperson for Nissan was not immediately available for comment. The company earlier this week said it would "continue to take appropriate legal action to hold Ghosn accountable for the harm that his misconduct has caused."
In the coming weeks, Ghosn said, he will continue to release details in an attempt to clear his name and restore his reputation. At the press conference, he said his arrest were a result resistance to his efforts to further merge French automaker Renault and Nissan, Japan's second-largest automaker.
"Some of my Japanese friends thought that the only way to get rid of the influence of Renault on Nissan was to get rid of me," he said.
Ghosn, who simultaneously led three automakers as part of the Nissan-Renault-Mitsubishi alliance, had been awaiting trial in Japan since his November 2018 arrest on charges of financial misconduct and misuse of corporate resources for personal gain.