Business / Corporate

In video, ousted Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn claims he's a victim of 'conspiracy'

by Satoshi Sugiyama

Staff Writer

In a highly anticipated video released Tuesday, Carlos Ghosn characterizes his ousting from the automaker he led for 20 years as “a conspiracy” by “selfish” Nissan executives afraid to forge ahead in its alliance with Mitsubishi Motors Corp. and Renault SA.

“This is about a plot. This is about conspiracies. This is about backstabbing,” the former Nissan Motor Co. chairman says in the video that according to his lawyers was recorded April 3, the day before his fourth arrest.

“I have a lot of respect for Nissan employees,” he says. “I am talking here about a few executives who obviously for their own interest and for their own selfish fears are creating a lot of value destruction … we are talking about people who really played a very dirty game.”

According to Junichiro Hironaka, one of his lawyers, Ghosn originally named individuals as masterminds of the conspiracy, but the defense team redacted those names at their discretion after getting consent from Ghosn. The video was aired to journalists a day after Nissan formally expelled Ghosn, who faces charges of financial misconduct and breach of trust, from its board at an extraordinary shareholders meeting.

Ghosn appears in the video dressed in a black jacket and white shirt with no tie, maintaining a calm demeanor. He reiterates his innocence but offers no specifics. Hironaka justified that decision, saying it would be inappropriate for Ghosn to comment on the allegations based on speculation and because the prosecutors have not fully revealed their evidence.

“I am also innocent of all the accusations that came around these charges that are all biased, taken out of context, twisted in a way to paint a personage of greed and the personage of dictatorship,” Ghosn says.

Nissan removed Ghosn from its board, his last remaining tie to the Nissan-Mitsubishi-Renault alliance, on Monday in a vote by its shareholders. Ghosn was relieved as chairman immediately after his arrest in November. The other two automakers had already stripped him of his executive titles.

Ghosn stresses his affection for Japan and Nissan, explaining that he came to this nation in 1999 because he “was fascinated with the country” as well as “the challenge of reviving” the automaker, which was struggling at the time. “My love for Japan and my love for Nissan is untainted today after all the ordeal I’ve been through,” he says.

At the same time, the former auto titan also expresses his concern for the future of the company, citing sluggish performance and scandals, including tampering with the results of new cars’ carbon dioxide emissions. He says the current executives have elaborated neither on the future of Nissan nor the alliance in spite of Nissan’s “absolutely mediocre performance.”

“This becomes very sad and obviously for somebody like me it’s very sickening,” he says.

His attorneys said Ghosn recorded himself talking about the case because of the possibility that the prosecutors could bring fresh allegations against him and he might be deprived of an opportunity to tell his side of the story. Both Ghosn and Hironaka denounced prosecutors for sabotaging a planned news conference by arresting him.

Hironaka repeated his remarks from last week that Ghosn’s fourth arrest isn’t justifiable as he did not pose a flight risk and was not at risk of tampering with evidence. The prosecutors are taking “cruel steps” to force Ghosn into making a confession, he said.

“The arrest and detention of Mr. Carlos Ghosn was carried out … to apply unjust pressure upon Mr. Ghosn,” Hironaka said.

The defense team will make a special appeal to the Supreme Court on Wednesday about the arrest.

Ghosn was rearrested last Thursday after the Tokyo prosecutors accused him offunneling some of Nissan’s payments — about ¥500 million — to a Lebanese firm run by his associates through a distributor in Oman for his own personal use.

The arrest took place while he had been released on bail, a highly unusual legal practice.

The 65-year-old former automaker executive tweeted April 3, the day before his fourth arrest that he would be holding a news conference to “tell the truth about what’s happening.”

His wife, Carole, had left Japan following his arrest, telling the French media she did so because she feared for her safety. Hironaka blasted prosecutors last week for treating her like a criminal when they raided Ghosn’s home by confiscating her personal items, such as her cellphone, even though she is not a suspect.

“You would be able to imagine how frightening it must have been for (Carole) to come to a foreign country and see her husband who has been in detention,” Hironaka said.

Ghosn was arrested along with his close associate, Greg Kelly, in November after being accused of falsely reporting his income for years. He was subsequently arrested and charged with aggravated breach of trust for the alleged transfer of private investment losses to Nissan in 2008.

Ghosn said he hopes he will get a fair trial, but his lawyers indicated it is unclear whether he will get one.

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