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‘I’m happy he did it’: In Beirut, wife of fugitive Ghosn slams Japanese justice

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BEIRUT (Reuters) — Carlos and Carole Ghosn, the former first couple of carmaker Nissan, are united again in Beirut. They hold hands in the street and whisper together in a mix of Arabic and French. They kiss.

Former Nissan chairman Carlos Ghon and his wife Carole are interviewed by Reuters in Beirut, Lebanon on Jan. 14, 2020.  REUTERS

But the pair’s most visceral display of unity comes when they talk about Carlos Ghosn’s former home.

“I’m done with Japan,” said Carole Ghosn in an interview with her husband in a private house in Beirut.

Two weeks ago, Carlos Ghosn made a dramatic escape from house arrest in Japan, where he was awaiting trial on charges of under-reporting earnings, breach of trust and misappropriation of company funds. He denies all charges.

Shortly after Ghosn appeared in Beirut, Japanese authorities issued an arrest warrant for Carole on suspicion of alleged perjury related to the misappropriation charge against her husband.

“What they’re accusing me of is a bit of a joke,” said the 54-year-old Lebanese-American national, who spent many years as a fashion designer in New York and whose children live in the U.S. city.

“I testified for hours and they told me you are free to go, and now, nine months later... this comes up. They are vindictive. This has nothing to do with the law.”

Carlos Ghosn was even more adamant. “I spent 18 years in Japan; I never suspected this brutality, this lack of fairness, this lack of empathy.”

Tokyo prosecutors have said his allegations of a conspiracy are false and that he has failed to justify his acts.

The plan to flee to his childhood home of Lebanon developed quickly with a small group of people, a “reasonable price” and utter secrecy, he said.

“The first rule if you want to do something like is that no member of your family should be aware because they become very anxious,” he added.

Asked whether she would have dissuaded him to escape, Carole Ghosn blurted: “Yes!”

But then she paused, looked at her husband and added: “No. I mean, actually, let me rephrase. If you told me this at the beginning, I would have said No, of course not. You’re going to fight this and prove your innocence... But then, with time, we saw how the prosecutors were behaving... I said ‘Oh my God my husband is never going to get a fair trial’ and I was desperate.”

“I’m happy he did it,” she said.

Japan’s justice minister has said Ghosn’s escape from his trial could constitute a crime.

Beirut has no extradition agreement with Japan and Ghosn’s legal team is pushing for him to stand trial in Lebanon. But Ghosn said last week that he does not want his own case to hurt relations between Lebanon, which is currently in the throes of an economic crisis, and the world’s third-largest economy.

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