James Jones recently spoke with the fugitive auto executive.
Carlos Ghosn’s rise from a titan in the automobile industry to an international fugitive has been chronicled in the press for years and shrouded in mystery.
The former Nissan executive has been living in Lebanon after he fled Japan in 2019 while in custody over alleged illicit accounting, money laundering and other corruption charges.
Ghosn has claimed the Japanese justice system has been rigged against him. Documentary filmmaker James Jones was one of the few journalists to interview Ghosn since his flight from Japan.
The interview is part of his four-part docuseries “Wanted: The Escape of Carlos Ghosn,” available on Apple TV+ Friday. Jones spoke about the series on ABC News Live Monday.
JAMES JONES: When Carlos Ghosn was at the peak of his power, he had more than half a million people working for him. He ran arguably the largest car alliance in the world. And he was up there in the elite business movement, along with Steve Jobs [and] Mark Zuckerberg. He was absolutely the pinnacle of the business world.
ABC NEWS LIVE: So tell us about how you managed to get access to Carlos Ghosn, who is still wanted, and how you were able to convince him that he should participate.
JONES: Yes, he has an Interpol red notice. He’s wanted in Japan, also now in France. He’s stuck in Lebanon. He can’t leave or he’ll be arrested. So we met him, it was about six months into the project. I met him in Beirut in a hotel. We spoke. It’s one of those kind of difficult conversations where you have to say to someone, ‘Look, you’re not going to love everything in this series, but this is going to be the definitive telling of your story and you’re going to like it a lot more if you’re in it because you’re your own best advocate.”
ABC NEWS LIVE: There have been a number of documentaries made about this story, as you know. In what way do you think that yours is different?
JONES: So, I think we tell the whole scope of the story. We knew all the evidence, but crucially, we then got all the key players on camera. So we got Carlos and his wife, Carol, but we also got Mike Taylor, the mastermind, [the] former Green Beret of the escape, who, when we started back in summer 2021, had just been extradited to Japan. He’s a man who got Carlos Ghosn out, and effectively ended up swapping places with him and spending the best part of two years in Japanese prison.
We can tell it blow by blow from everyone who is involved. And that is just something that’s never been done before.
ABC NEWS LIVE: The story is recent, certainly, and even during production was still unfolding. How much did the charges from France impact that production?
JONES: Yeah. I mean, it was an extraordinary moment because I think for Carlos Ghosn, he’s built the narrative that the charges in Japan were disproportionate. It was basically a conspiracy within Nissan to take him down. And, there’s a lot of evidence to support that. The charges against them him early on were really minor. And what happened was the Nissan investigators almost stumbled across much more serious allegations of Carlos Ghosn sending Renault Nissan money to businessmen in the Middle East. And then through a very convoluted secret route, receiving that money back in his own pocket. And that’s what the French seized upon.
And, it’s much harder for him now to say, you know, this is a stitch-up, this is a conspiracy. The French justice system is internationally respected, and if they have issued an arrest warrant for him, he now looks like a fugitive on the run from his own wrongdoing rather than a victim of injustice.
ABC NEWS LIVE: Between all the participants in your docuseries, there seems to be a lot of contrasting truths. You got to see a lot of the information as it played out during production. So what do you think? I’d like to pose the same question that we see in the trailer to you. Is Carlos Ghosn a victim or a villain?
JONES: Yeah. I mean, that’s why we want people to watch, to make up their own minds. But I think, potentially, it’s not even an either or. I think there’s no question that he was a victim early on in this story. There was a conspiracy. He was treated really badly. He was tricked into going back to Japan. He was put into solitary confinement, interrogated without a lawyer.
When it becomes more complicated is when as time goes by and the allegations and the evidence found against him are just of a completely different level to those early charges. And I think then we put these allegations to him and it’s up to the audience really to decide whether his answers are plausible.