TOKYO: Carlos Ghosn's main lawyer said on Tuesday (Dec 31) he was "dumbfounded" by the news of his client's sudden departure from Japan where he was out on bail ahead of a trial for financial misconduct.
"We were completely caught by surprise. I am dumbfounded," Junichiro Hironaka told reporters, adding he had had no contact with Ghosn and did not know how to reach him now.
"I don't even know if we can contact him. I don't know how we will proceed beyond that," Hironaka told reporters.
Public broadcaster NHK cited a foreign ministry official as saying: "He was not supposed to leave the country. Had we known about it beforehand, we would have reported that to proper law enforcement authorities."
Taichiro Motoe, a lawmaker from Shinzo Abe's ruling Liberal Democrat Party (LDP), said the news had come as a "shock."
The auto tycoon's abrupt departure was the latest twist in a rollercoaster journey that saw him fall from boardroom to detention centre and it sparked questions over an embarrassing security lapse in Japan.
In a statement, the 65-year-old tycoon said he would "no longer be held hostage by a rigged Japanese justice system, where guilt is presumed, discrimination is rampant, and basic human rights are denied."
"I have not fled justice - I have escaped injustice and political persecution," said Ghosn, who vowed to communicate "freely" with the media "starting next week."
It is not clear how he managed to leave Japan, as his bail conditions prevent him from exiting the country he had been held in since his sudden arrest in November 2018 sent shockwaves through the business world.
He and his lawyers have repeatedly voiced fears over the impossibility of a fair trial in Japan and have called for the case to be thrown out, citing mis-steps by the prosecutors' office.
Lebanese media reported Ghosn had flown by private plane from Turkey to Lebanon, where his parents were born and where he spent most of his childhood, after arriving there as a toddler.
Many Lebanese view Ghosn as a symbol of their country's large diaspora, and a prime example of Lebanese entrepreneurial genius and have been shocked by his arrest.
But in Tokyo, the unexpected turn of events will spark questions about how he could apparently have given authorities the slip.