Wife of ex-Nissan boss says arrest warrant an act of 'revenge'

The wife of former Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn on Tuesday said a Japanese arrest warrant against her was to avenge her husband's escape from Japan's judiciary and described the act as petty.

Automaker still pursuing ex-chairman Carlos Ghosn for 'misconduct'

Carole Ghosn, left, says Japanese prosecutors 'are seeking revenge' by issuing an arrest warrant for her after her husband was able to flee Japan for Lebanon while awaiting trial for financial misconduct. (Kyodo News via The Associated Press)

The wife of former Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn on Tuesday said a Japanese arrest warrant against her was to avenge her husband's escape from Japan's judiciary and described the act as petty.

"Japanese prosecutors are seeking revenge," Carole Ghosn told Le Parisien newspaper in an interview conducted in Beirut, where her husband arrived last week after being smuggled out of Japan while he awaited trial for financial misconduct.

Carole Ghosn said the Japanese prosecutors were "hoping to put pressure on my husband" a day before he is to give a news conference in Lebanon.

Tokyo prosecutors issued the warrant Tuesday for Carole Ghosn on suspicion of perjury, adding to the couple's legal troubles in the country where he once was revered as a star executive.

The move against Carole Ghosn followed her husband's flight to Lebanon last week while he was out on bail awaiting trial for alleged financial misconduct.

Details on the allegations against Carole Ghosn were not immediately available. Japanese officials have said anyone caught helping a fugitive escape will face legal consequences.

Carole Ghosn was banned from meeting with her husband while he was out on bail because she was seen as someone who might help his escape.

Earlier Tuesday, Ghosn's former employer, Nissan Motor Co., said it was still pursuing legal action against him despite his escape from Japan to Lebanon.

The Japanese automaker said in a statement that Ghosn engaged in serious misconduct while leading the Nissan-Renault-Mitsubishi alliance.

"The company will continue to take appropriate legal action to hold Ghosn accountable for the harm that his misconduct has caused to Nissan," it said without giving details.

Later Tuesday, Carlos Ghosn's defence team released a statement calling the claim by Nissan that it carried out "a robust, thorough internal investigation" into Ghosn a "gross perversion of the truth."

"The facts demonstrate that investigation was never about finding the truth; it was initiated and carried out for the specific, predetermined purpose of taking down Carlos Ghosn to prevent him from further integrating Nissan and Renault, which threatened the independence of Nissan," the statement said.

The former Nissan and Renault SA chairman has denied all charges against him and said he was the victim of "backstabbing" and "conspiracy" by Nissan executives who wanted to derail his efforts to merge the two automakers.

Japan's chief government spokesperson told reporters Tokyo has told Lebanon that Ghosn left the country illegally and was seeking co-operation in finding out what happened.

No extradition deal between Japan and Lebanon

Japan and Lebanon do not have an extradition treaty. Experts have said it would be difficult to bring Ghosn back to stand trial in Tokyo and Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the situation had to be handled carefully.

The Foreign Ministry said the Japan's ambassador to Beirut planned to meet with Lebanese President Michel Aoun later in the day.

He managed to skip bail and leave the country despite heavy surveillance while he was staying at a home in Tokyo.

Japanese news reports Tuesday gave new details of that escape, saying he left his residence alone, met two men at a Tokyo hotel, and then took a bullet train to Osaka before boarding a private jet hidden inside a case for musical equipment. Prosecutors are investigating why the cargo was not inspected before it was loaded, the broadcaster NHK and financial newspaper Nikkei said, citing unnamed sources.

The jet used, made by Canada's Bombardier, is designed to allow easy access between its passenger and cargo compartments.

The Nikkei report said dozens of people in various countries helped to plan his clandestine departure.

Ghosn expected to speak this week

Nissan's statement was the first word from the company since Ghosn's flight last week. The automaker and Japanese prosecutors allege Ghosn misstated his future compensation and diverted company assets for personal gain. He says he is innocent.

Ghosn has not appeared in public since arriving in Lebanon. He is expected to give his side of the story in a news conference planned for Wednesday in Beirut.

Carlos Ghosn is seen speaking during a press conference near Tokyo in this 2016 photo. Ghosn, who surreptitiously snuck out of Japan, is expected to speak publicly later this week. (Eugene Hoshiko/The Associated Press)

Ghosn said in a statement last week that he wanted to escape "injustice." Critics of the Japanese judicial system say his case exemplifies its tendency to move too slowly and keep suspects in detention for too long.

Nissan said in its statement that an investigation is ongoing in France, and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has found some wrongdoing.

Ghosn has not been charged in France or the U.S.

Tighter border controls

Japan's Justice Minister Masako Mori said Japan would tighten border control precautions to prevent a recurrence. She did not confirm reports that Ghosn left via the Kansai Airport in Osaka, hidden inside a musical equipment box as he was brought aboard a private jet and flown first to Turkey and then to Lebanon.

Mori told reporters Tuesday that all airports will be required to check all cargo and luggage, including items destined for private jets.

She reiterated her defence of the justice system and denounced Ghosn's escape as an "unjustifiable" crime. She said each nation's system has its own way of making arrests and granting bail.

The scandal over Ghosn's case has tarnished Nissan's image and created a leadership vacuum at a time when the automaker's profits and sales are tumbling. Ghosn's successor Hiroto Saikawa also resigned last year amid financial misconduct allegations related to questionable income.

"Nissan will continue to do the right thing by cooperating with judicial and regulatory authorities wherever necessary," the Yokohama-based company said.

Although Ghosn is unlikely to face trial in Japan, Greg Kelly, another Nissan former executive, is still facing charges of under-reporting Ghosn's future compensation. He says he is innocent.

Kelly, an American, who is out on bail, has not been charged with the breach of trust allegations Ghosn is also facing.

Nissan has also been charged as a corporate entity. The company says it won't fight the charges and will pay the required fines.

With files from Reuters