TOKYO, Jan 23 — Japanese prosecutors hit back today at claims made by fugitive former Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn that he was interrogated for “up to eight hours per day” during questioning over financial misconduct allegations.
Ghosn, who dramatically skipped bail earlier this month and fled to Lebanon, had painted a picture of harsh conditions in Japanese custody that authorities have contested.
“I had spent the previous months being interrogated up to eight hours a day without any lawyers present, without an understanding of exactly what I was being accused of, without access to the evidence that justified this travesty against my human rights and dignity,” he told reporters in Lebanon.
But the deputy head of the Tokyo district public prosecutors’ office, Takahiro Saito, said Ghosn’s claims were “clearly false and designed to fool the media”.
“Mr Ghosn spent 130 days in detention and was questioned in total on 70 of those days. So 60 days without questioning,” said Saito.
“On average, he was questioned for less than four hours per day.”
He said questioning was halted for meals, visits, showers and to give Ghosn a chance to consult his lawyers — time he said the tycoon had counted as “interrogation”.
“The longest questioning over one day was for around six hours, not continuously, with breaks. It never went as long as seven hours, still less eight,” this prosecutor stressed.
He also said that everything was on tape and would have been available during Ghosn’s trial if he had not fled.
The high-profile case has put the spotlight on the Japanese justice system, which has come under fire for its ability to keep suspects in custody for lengthy periods, its reliance on confessions and an almost 100 per cent conviction rate.
“Everything has been recorded and would have been used as evidence for a judgement,” Saito said. “In such conditions, if we were extracting confessions by force, it would be visible.”
In his first comments about Ghosn’s daring escape, which has left Japanese officials red-faced, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said today it was “extremely regrettable”. — AFP