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U.N. says former Nissan head Carlos Ghosn owed 'compensation' for arrest, detention

The U.N. panel said it would refer Ghosn's case to its rapporteur on torture and degrading treatment.
Image: FILE PHOTO: Carlos Ghosn to unveil ambitions plan to help Lebanon economy
Carlos Ghosn, the former Nissan and Renault chief executive, looks on during a news conference in Jounieh, Lebanon, on Sept. 29, 2020.Mohamed Azakir / Reuters file

Officials working with a United Nations human rights group said Monday that former Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn should receive both “compensation” and “other reparations” from the Japanese government for its handling of his November 2018 arrest and subsequent detention.

Ghosn was arrested shortly after arriving in Tokyo and charged with a series of financial crimes, including the concealment of millions of dollars in income. He spent months in a small, unheated cell before being released on bail. The Brazilian-born executive subsequently escaped to Lebanon last December. Since then, a number of people alleged to have assisted his escape have been arrested, including two Americans facing extradition to Japan.

The 64-year-old Ghosn has repeatedly insisted he is innocent and was victim of a “coup.” While the United Nations Human Rights Council's Working Group on Arbitrary Detention did not directly address the case’s merits, they concluded the handling of his arrest and detention was “arbitrary,” recommending the Japanese government “take the necessary steps to remedy the situation of Mr. Ghosn without delay.”

The five-member group called for a “full and independent investigation” and urged the Japanese government “take appropriate measures against those responsible for the violation of (Ghosn’s) rights.” The 17-page opinion said reparations are justified, “in accordance with international law.”

There was minor disagreement within the panel. International law professor Roland Adjovi said it was not clear whether the case was handled arbitrarily, though he agreed Japanese prosecutors had deprived Ghosn of his liberty.

French automaker Renault, led by Ghosn, bailed out Japan’s second-largest automaker in 1999. Ghosn subsequently became Nissan’s CEO and, later, its chairman. At the time of his arrest, he also served as head of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance.

Initially arrested on charges of concealing income, Japanese prosecutors repeatedly added new charges, using them to convince judges to extend Ghosn’s time behind bars. The panel said Monday that the "repeated arrest of Mr. Ghosn appears to be an abuse of process intended to ensure that he remained in custody,” which it concluded was "an extrajudicial abuse of process that can have no legal basis under international law.”

Ghosn spent about four months at the Tokyo Detention Center before getting bail. Even then, Ghosn faced severe restrictions. He could not meet with his son or wife and could only access the internet from his lawyer’s office.

Then, in December 2019, Ghosn pulled off a stunning escape, using a chartered jet to fly to Turkey and then on to Lebanon, his family’s ancestral home, which has no extradition treaty with Japan.

While Ghosn remains free as long as he remains in that country, others linked to the escape plot face extradition to Japan, including former Green Beret Michael L. Taylor and son Peter M. Taylor, who were arrested earlier this year.

The elder Taylor, who is being held at the Norfolk County Correctional Center in Massachusetts, told a local television station last week that he has appealed to President Donald Trump to intervene in the case.

The U.N. panel said it would refer Ghosn's case to the U.N.'s rapporteur on torture and degrading treatment.