Ex-Renault boss Ghosn denies cheating on emissions, details escape from Japan
Former car company executive Carlos Ghosn has denied responsibility in Renault’s alleged cheating on emissions tests, in a scandal involving several carmakers that allegedly used devices to get around environmental standards.
And for the first time, he has provided details of his daring escape from Japan in 2019, traveling to Lebanon in a box used to transport musical equipment.
Three French magistrates travelled from Paris to Beirut in May to question Ghosn, the former Renault and Nissan boss who jumped bail in Japan and fled to Lebanon to avoid prosecution for financial misconduct, in what he said would be an unfair trial.
The magistrates questioned Ghosn as a witness in another affair, the so-called ‘dieselgate’ scandal, which started with Volkswagen and now includes other automakers.
Since Volkswagen admitted in 2015 to using devices to cheat on CO2 emissions tests in 11 million diesel engines, investigations have found evidence that other companies were doing the same, including Renault and France’s two other car makers, Citroen and Peugeot, which have all been charged in France with consumer fraud.
In minutes of the 26 May interview, seen by the AFP news agency, Ghosn, who ran Renault from 2005 to 2019, said that he was not involved in issues relating to engine performance at his level of management.
Though France's anti-fraud office in 2016 said that Renault's entire chain of command was implicated, and that the cheating was part of company strategy.
In the interview with the magistrates, Ghosn admitted that Renault had struggled with "performance" issues, but he added: "It was "nothing that could come close to what other manufacturers are accused of, in terms of knowingly hiding the results.
"We in no way skimped on respect for [environmental] standards," he said.
Daring escape, in a box
Ghosn, who was born in Brazil and also holds French and Lebanese citizenship, has been in Beirut since the end of 2019, when he escaped Japan, where he was out of prison on bail and awaiting trial on charges of concealing income and misusing company funds.
This week, for the first time, Ghosn, who faced 15 years in prison in Japan, provided details about how he left without being detected.
In an interview with the BBC, Ghosn confirmed reports that he was smuggled out of Japan to Lebanon, via Turkey, inside a box used to transport musical equipment.
He said he had to find a way to leave the country without being recognized, and the only way to do so was to be in a box or be in a luggage so nobody could see him.
Ghosn says he spent a total of 90 minutes in the box, which was loaded onto a private jet by two men posing as musicians.
“The 30 minutes waiting in the box on the plane, waiting for it to take off, was probably the longest wait I’ve ever experienced in my life,” he said.
The men who transported Ghosn to the airport, Michael and Peter Taylor, a father and son, were extradited from the US to Japan earlier this year, and face up to three years in prison for assisting in the escape.
Ghosn made his way to Lebanon, which does not have an extradition treaty with Japan.
Ghosn faces potential charges in France. Investigators interviewed him extensively in June via video link because he has refused to leave Lebanon, for fear of ending up in Japan.
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