A once-revered chairman of the Japanese auto firm, Nissan, is now a fugitive trying to escape trial on criminal charges in Japan. Carlos Ghosn has fallen far from his chairmanship and leadership role within the auto industry. He was charged with financial misconduct while CEO at Nissan. He maintained his innocence and tried to get released from the Japanese justice system. Ghosn was under house arrest with 24-hour surveillance. He has become an international fugitive by escaping from his home in Tokyo by hiding in a large musical instrument case being smuggled out of the country by musicians who were hired to perform at a dinner party. He was able to hire a private plane and escaped to Lebanon. As a citizen of Lebanon, he is protected from extradition back to Japan for trial. Lebanese officials stated that Ghosn entered the country legally, will be free, and is experiencing no repercussions for his alleged financial misconduct.
Japanese prosecutors accused Ghosn of using company resources to pay for his lavish lifestyle. His friends argued that he was 'set up' by other Nissan executives because of his plans to develop an alliance with French auto firm Renault. Ghosn faces up to 15 years in prison in a country where 99% of those indicted are convicted. Mr. Ghosn faced the dilemma of going through the Japanese legal system to attempt to prove his innocence or, committing an illegal act in fleeing detention and escaping trial. Therefore, regardless of his guilt or innocence in financial matters at Nissan, he has committed a crime in his illegal escape from Tokyo.
While Mr. Ghosn was very successful in his role as a highly acclaimed auto executive, he failed to exert ethical leadership, especially as it relates to his own personal conduct. Regardless of his conduct at Nissan, he is now a fugitive and his many accomplishments have been discredited. The complexity of international laws and, especially financial compliance, require CEOs to embrace not only legal requirements, but also principles that provide guidance for appropriate conduct in all aspects of life.