Carlos Ghosn’s escape from Japan is making the headlines of every news outlet online and offline, internationally and in Japan. Conspiracy theories have been many on why he fled Japan. Social media has been talking about it nonstop. Many Lebanese, including the government, see Ghosn as a symbol of the country’s diaspora and entrepreneurial genius. Upon his arrival in Lebanon, Ghosn said, "I am now free of injustice."
His escape is still a mystery to everyone, especially the Japanese government that should have known more by now. Most, yet not all, Japanese media outlets already describe Ghosn as a coward for escaping only a month before his trial for multiple charges of financial misconduct.
Japanese newspapers Yomiuri Shimbun and Tokyo Shimbun shared the same perspective: “Running away is a cowardly act that mocks Japan’s justice system; he has lost the opportunity to prove his innocence and vindicate his honor.”
Junichiro Hironaka, Ghosn’s Japanese lawyer, said that he was “dumbfounded” by the news as the lawyers were still in possession of Ghosn’s passports. Taichiro Motoe, a lawmaker from the Liberal Democrat Party (LDP), said the news had come as a “shock” and called for “swift and effective” improvements.
According to Japan Today, “Prosecutors objected to bail, considering the suspect's high risk of absconding, given his powerful connections.”
Another LDP lawmaker by the name of Masahisa Sato stated, “If this is true, it was not 'departing the country', it was an illegal departure and an escape, and this itself is a crime. [...] It is also a serious problem that Japan's system allowed an illegal departure so easily.”
#UPDATE Bailed tycoon Ghosn 'escapes' to Lebanon from 'rigged' Japan.— AFP news agency (@AFP) December 31, 2019
His lawyer, Junichiro Hironaka, told reporters he is "dumbfounded" by the news of Ghosn's flight from Japan where he was out on bail ahead of his financial misconduct trial https://t.co/DgLirs37Rl pic.twitter.com/5IxdTpXXB5
Japan Times wrote that a senior Japanese government official stated that Japan is expected to speak with Lebanon through diplomatic channels about Carlos Ghosn fleeing Tokyo.
However, Japan has little expectation that the matter will be resolved in its favor since there is no extradition treaty between Lebanon and Japan. “The odds of acquiring extradition tend to be very nearly zero,” the Japanese federal government stated.
The Japanese are still in disbelief on how one of the most high-profile and instantly recognizable tycoons on Earth managed to escape Japan undetected.
For Japan, this is a highly embarrassing lapse in security, especially that all the world is talking about it. Some local news outlets in Japan are even hinting that Ghosn was assisted by some government officials.
Ghosn Escape: "Speculation is rife that a foreign or Japanese government, or both, might have been involved, or maybe just looked the other way to allow the escape to rid the public of a potentially embarrassing trial." That's in the Mainichi! Interesting times. (MP) #CarlosGhosn— SNA Japan (@ShingetsuNews) January 1, 2020
According to the SNA Japan independent news, fingers are starting to be pointed at the Lebanese government for aiding Ghosn's escape "at some level" as per Former Governor of Tokyo Yoichi Masuzoe.
Ghosn Escape: Tweeting in English, former Tokyo Governor Yoichi Masuzoe agrees that the Lebanese government must have been involved at some level in Ghosn's flight. (MP) #YoichiMasuzoe #CarlosGhosn #Lebanon https://t.co/GDYqVEAdCL— SNA Japan (@ShingetsuNews) January 1, 2020
The embarrassment is also felt among the Japanese people, especially that Ghosn's escape has triggered global criticism on the country's alleged “hostage justice” system.
However, not all Japanese appear to see Ghosn as a criminal. Some are reacting with statements such as "innocent until proven guilty." A Twitter user from Japan who goes by the name of Uchūjin @ewikiskafa, holder of a master's degree in politics, tweeted:
"I don't even know why this is controversial. Innocent until proven guilty. There are people where we maybe don't like that principle but that doesn't mean we should break with it."
Interesting enough, SNA Japan also pointed out that the charges of misreporting salary against Ghosn are very weak:
SNA is not giving Carlos Ghosn the "benefit of the doubt" because he's a foreigner or any other reason. When the charges were first raised against him for allegedly misreporting his salary, we looked at them closely. It was a very weak case to begin with. We follow facts. (MP) https://t.co/cmDGRfDSz9— SNA Japan (@ShingetsuNews) January 1, 2020
At this point, one matter seems sure: This case will prompt Japan to quickly consider new legal measures or a system to prevent such escapes. Meanwhile, Ghosn has just announced that he will hold a press conference on Wednesday, January 8th.