One week has passed since former Nissan Motor Co. Chairman Carlos Ghosn stunned the world by fleeing Japan.
While a flurry of information about his escape has emerged, many mysteries remain.
One thing is clear, however. Ghosn, who has been indicated on financial misconduct charges, has jumped bail of 1.5 billion yen ($13.8 million) and illegally fled to Lebanon, where he has citizenship. Ghosn’s act has trampled on justice and is totally unforgivable.
In a Jan. 6 news conference, Justice Minister Masako Mori vowed to take every possible step to ensure that Ghosn will be brought to justice in Japan in cooperation with relevant international organizations.
Ghosn, charged with violating the company law, among other alleged crimes, has claimed his innocence and argued that plea bargains between Tokyo prosecutors and Nissan officials are illegal.
A criminal trial cannot be held without the presence of the defendant. The current situation could leave the case in judicial limbo.
In addition to holding tenacious negotiations with the Lebanese government, the Japanese government has a duty to make all possible diplomatic efforts to ensure that Ghosn will be tried in Japan, including providing the overseas audience with detailed information about Japan’s criminal justice system.
The government should also act swiftly to find out why it has allowed the unprecedented escape of a criminal defendant from Japan.
Ghosn apparently left Japan from the Kansai International Airport aboard a private jet. It is necessary for law enforcement authorities to check whether there were flaws and lapses in procedures involved. The government needs to offer clear answers to the many questions raised by Ghosn’s escape and embark on necessary reforms to fix the problems.
After twists and turns including his arrest, bail and rearrest, Ghosn has been freed from detention since the end of April last year.
The court allowed bail after his defense team proposed a set of measures to prevent his escape, including the installation of a monitoring camera at the entrance to his residence and restrictions on his use of personal computers and mobile phones.
These measures, however, failed to keep him running from justice. This fact should be taken seriously.
One question is whether bail set at 1.5 billion yen was appropriate for Ghosn, a well-connected ultrarich executive. Another is whether it was appropriate to allow him to carry one of his passports, which were supposed to be kept by his lawyers, from a certain point of time.
These are just two of the many questions that should be answered.
Japan’s criminal justice system, known for its bad tradition of detaining suspects for long periods if they refuse to admit to the charges, has been criticized both at home and abroad.
This aspect has been reviewed as part of judicial reform in recent years, which also included the introduction of the citizen judge system. As a result, the number of criminal cases where the defendant is granted bail has been growing.
Ghosn’s bail symbolized this trend and was expected to lead to further improvement in related procedures. His escape has delivered a heavy blow to the efforts but does not justify rolling back the reform.
There should be continued efforts to achieve a good balance in court decisions concerning bail between ensuring effective criminal investigations and trials and protecting human rights.
That requires an exhaustive investigation into the auto industry tycoon’s run from justice.