Former Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn accused Japanese prosecutors of treating him "brutally" after his arrest in Japan and said officials with the government and the automaker colluded to force him out of his position.
Ghosn's comments were made at a Wednesday news conference in Beirut, his first since he was arrested in November 2018, and his first public appearance since his daring escape last month from Japan.
Felt like 'hostage'
"You are going to die in Japan or you are going to have to get out," the 65-year-old said. "I felt like the hostage of a country I served for 17 years."
Ghosn, who was scheduled to stand trial for alleged financial misconduct at Nissan, said the decision to flee Japan for his childhood home of Lebanon "was the most difficult decision of my life."
But Ghosn said his escape, which embarrassed Japanese authorities and details of which he declined to disclose, was necessary to clear his name.
The former executive was charged in Japan with under-reporting earnings, breach of trust and misappropriation of company funds, charges he described as "baseless."
As Ghosn spoke with reporters in Beirut, the Tokyo prosecutor's office released a statement.
"Defendant Ghosn's allegations completely ignore his own conduct and his one-sided criticism of the Japanese criminal justice system is totally unacceptable," the statement said.
'There was no trust'
Ghosn characterized his arrest as a plot linked to a decline in Nissan's financial performance.
He said "there was no trust" in his proposal to merge Nissan with French automaker Renault, of which he was also chairman.
"And some of our Japanese friends thought that the only way to get rid of Renault in Nissan is to get rid of me,” Ghosn said. He added: "I should have never been arrested in the first place."
Ghosn also said he would be willing to face charges against him "anywhere where I think I can have a fair trial."
Lebanon last week received a wanted notice for Ghosn from the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol). The notice is a nonbinding request to law enforcement agencies throughout the world to locate and provisionally arrest a fugitive.
Lebanon does not have an extradition treaty and the notice does not require Lebanon to arrest Ghosn.
Lebanese authorities have said Ghosn, who is Lebanese and also holds French and Brazilian passports, entered the country legally, casting doubt on the possibility they would hand him over to Japanese authorities.