Carlos Ghosn's wife says his escape from Japan was 'beautiful surprise'

Carole Ghosn says she did not know about his plan and claims he is victim of ‘industrial plot’

Carole Ghosn, the wife of the fugitive former Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn, has insisted she had no idea about his plan to flee Japan and was surprised when he arrived to join in with her festive celebrations in Beirut.

Her comments were published hours before the 65-year-old executive was due to give a press conference in Beirut detailing his flight from Japan on 29 December, where he had been awaiting trial on multiple counts of financial misconduct, which he denies.

Speculation over how he managed to bypass tight bail conditions has ranged from reports of him hiding in a musical instrument case to boarding a bullet train.

In her first interview since the escape Carole Ghosn, a Lebanese-born fashion designer who had been based in New York, told Le Parisien: “I didn’t know about anything. I was in Beirut with my children to celebrate Christmas. Someone called me, saying: ‘I’ve got a surprise for you.’

“It was the most beautiful surprise of my life. We met at my parents’ apartment. I held Carlos very tightly in my arms for at least five whole minutes before I could even speak.”

She said she “never doubted my husband for a second” and repeated the family’s assertion that he had been the victim of a “coup” by former colleagues opposed to his plans to deepen the alliance between Nissan and the French carmaker Renault. She called him “the victim of an industrial plot and the war between Renault and Nissan”.

She said leaving Japan “was his only possible choice” as he was being kept in conditions aimed at “dehumanising him”.

(November 19, 2018) 

Ghosn is arrested by Japanese police at a Tokyo airport upon arrival in his private jet. This follows the arrest hours before of Nissan board member Greg Kelly, a key ally of Ghosn’s. Both are sent to a detention centre in Tokyo. Nissan and Mitsubishi say they will both remove Ghosn as chairman.

(November 26, 2018) 

Misubishi sacks Ghosn as chairman, following a similar move by Nissan.

(December 10, 2018) 

Prosecutors add to the charges against Ghosn and Kelly, who are accused of underreporting Ghosn’s income over five years to 2015. They are are rearrested on allegations of understating Ghosn’s income for three more years to March 2018.

(December 13, 2018) 

Renault initially decides to retain Ghosn as chairman and chief executive after finding no irregularities in his pay packages.

(December 21, 2018) 

Ghosn is re-arrested on allegations of aggravated breach of trust, accused of shifting personal investment losses to Nissan in 2008. The legal team for Kelly, who suffers from spinal stenosis and needs surgery, requests his release on bail, which is granted on 24 December after he pays 70 million yen (£507,025) in cash.

(January 8, 2019) 

Ghosn proclaims his innocence during a court hearing, his first public appearance following his arrest. A judge says his continued detention is necessary due to flight risk and the possibility he could conceal evidence.

(January 18, 2019) 

Nissan and Mitsubishi accuse Ghosn of receiving €7.8m (£6.9m) in “improper payments” from a joint venture between the Japanese carmakers.

(January 24, 2019) 

Renault appoints Jean-Dominique Senard as chairman and Thierry Bolloré as chief executive after Ghosn resigns from both roles.

(January 30, 2019) 

Ghosn accuses Nissan executives of a plot to oust him and prevent closer ties with Renault, in his first interview since his arrest in November.

(February 13, 2019) 

Renault’s board of directors votes unanimously to strip Ghosn of up to €30m (£26m) in pay and severance.

(March 6, 2019) 

Ghosn is released on bail and must live under strict bail conditions in Tokyo until his trial begins. His lawyer Motonari Otsuru quits.

(April 5, 2019) 

Ghosn is re-arrested.

(April 8, 2019) 

Nissan shareholders sack Ghosn from the company board and replace him with Renault chairman Jean-Dominique Senard. A day later Ghosn accuses Nissan executives of conspiring against him in a video.

(April 11, 2019) 

Ghosn’s lawyers condemn his latest arrest as “inhuman”, saying that it has interrupted the former Nissan chairman’s treatment for chronic kidney failure.

(April 25, 2019) 

A court in Japan grants $4.5m bail to Ghosn but he must stay in Japan and is not allowed to meet his wife, Carole, without the court’s permission.

(December 31, 2019) 

Ghosn flees court-imposed bail ahead of his trial and arrives in Lebanon. He issues a statement in which he says he will “no longer be held hostage by a rigged Japanese justice system where guilt is presumed”. His escape is believed to have involved him being hidden in a musical instrument case that was then flown out of the country.

Julia Kollewe

Carlos Ghosn, who holds French, Brazilian and Lebanese citizenships, had been under strict bail conditions which included restrictions on contacting his wife. This was reportedly among the reasons why he decided to jump bail. His wife said that when she had visited him in jail, he was being kept in a cell near “criminals, terrorists, mass murderers” and tattooed gang members.

The couple married in 2016, the second marriage for both, at a sumptuous reception at the Palace of Versailles, with a Marie Antoinette theme and historic costumes.

Last year French prosecutors opened a preliminary inquiry into how Ghosn, the former Renault chief, financed his wedding – and whether the French car firm had footed part of the bill for the private event. Ghosn has denied any wrongdoing linked to the wedding.

Carole Ghosn was a vocal supporter of her husband during his long detention in Japan. This week prosecutors in Japan issued an arrest warrant for her for alleged perjury, a charge not related to her husband’s escape. She dismissed the arrest warrant as “an act of revenge by Japanese prosecutors”.

Nissan has vowed to pursue its former chairman over what it has called his “serious misconduct” while head of the firm.


Angelique Chrisafis in Paris

The GuardianTramp

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