Carlos Ghosn, the fugitive former chairman of Nissan, launched a blistering attack against the Japanese justice system and a "handful of unscrupulous, vindictive individuals at Nissan" for the charges against him in his first public address since his arrest in November 2018.
Ghosn, 65, held a highly-anticipated press conference on Wednesday from Beirut, Lebanon. It comes a week after his stunning escape from Tokyo where he is due to go on trial for financial misconduct.
"Today is an important day for me," Ghosn said. "One that I have looked forward to every single day for more than 400 days since I was brutally taken from my world as I knew it."
Japan's minister of Justice Masako Mori responded to the accusations in a press conference and called Ghosn's accusations "baseless."
'We'll go after your family'
He claimed to have been interrogated by prosecutors for up to eight hours a day without a lawyer present or access to evidence. He also said that prosecutors tried to coerce a confession out of him by threatening to go after his family.
"Just confess and it will be over. Not only will we go after you, but we will go after your family," prosecutors allegedly told him.
He added that he spent weeks in solitary confinement in a windowless room, unable to see or speak to his family and that he was "ruthlessly thrown back into solitary confinement" hours after being granted bail after making plans to speak publicly.
He also claimed that he was only allowed to shower twice a week, was only allowed outside for 30 minutes a day except at weekends because of a lack of guards and that his prescribed medication was restricted. He described his detention conditions as a "travesty against my human rights".
The former Nissan chairman additionally said that his lawyers told him he wouldn't go on trial for at least five years.
The decision to escape was the "most difficult" of his life, he said, adding that he had no choice "with the strings being pulled and manipulated by those dead set on securing a confession or conviction whose only goal is to save face. The facts, truths and justice are irrelevant to these individuals".
Japan's minister of justice said Ghosn's accusations "could present the wrong idea about Japan's system far and wide," and held her own press conference to "correct such perception." She responded that "none of his criticisms are correct."
Masako Mori also added that nothing Ghosn said"can justify the fact that he fled Japan illegally," and urged Ghosn to come back to Japan to face trial there.
He then described the charges against him as "baseless".
"These allegations are untrue and I should have never been arrested in the first place," he went on, laying the blame on "unscrupulous, vindictive individuals at Nissan" as well as the Latham & Watkins legal firms.
He alleged that the plot against him was triggered after Nissan's performance started to decline in early 2017 and that "some of our Japanese friends thought the only way to get rid of the influence of Renault on Nissan is to get rid of me".
"The collusion between Nissan and the prosecutor is everywhere," he claimed, reiterating: "I did not escape justice, I fled injustice and persecution, political persecution" and said he could "name names" in the Japanese government involved in the case against him.
Using financial statements, Ghosn sought to debunk claims he illegally tapped into a "CEO reserve", insisting that he had to get approval from other Nissan officials before using company money. He also defended his decision to throw a costly party to celebrate the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance at the Palace of Versailles and refuted allegations he used Nissan funds to buy properties around the world.
He also railed against the "character assassination" orchestrated against him, with Japanese media depicting him as a "cold, greedy dictator".
'I'm going to fight'
Answering questions from journalists in Arabic, French, English and Portuguese, Ghosn said he is "ready to share" the documents he has so they can be fact-checked. He also argued that now that he is out and able to speak publicly, "many people will come forward" with further evidence proving his innocence.
"I'm going to fight because I have to clear my name. This is very important to me" he stressed.
Ghosn skipped bail last week and improbably smuggled himself out of Japan to travel to Lebanon.
The car tycoon — who holds French, Lebanese and Brazilian nationality — was arrested and prevented from leaving Japan in November 2018 and is to go on trial on financial misconduct charges. Ghosn has always denied the charges.
In statements released since fleeing Japan, Ghosn said he had done so to avoid "injustice and political persecution". He also sought to dispel rumours about his family's alleged involvement in his escape, affirming that he "alone" had organised his covert
Lebanon and Japan do not have an extradition treaty and the Interpol Red Notice issued last week against Ghosn does not require Lebanon to arrest him.
A Lebanese prosecutor said on Wednesday that Ghosn is to be summoned over a visit to Israel more than 10 years ago.
The previous day, Tokyo prosecutors had obtained an arrest warrant for Carole Ghosn on suspicion of perjury. That charge is not related to his escape.