Executive-turned-international fugitive Carlos Ghosn is gunning for revenge in a new book published this week about the events surrounding his November 2018 arrest in Tokyo, 130-day imprisonment and dramatic escape to Lebanon.
The former high-flying chairman of Nissan Motor Co. and Renault SA, who has denied financial misconduct charges, has long said he was set up to prevent deeper integration between the two automakers, part of a three-way alliance with Mitsubishi Motors Corp. Ghosn remains holed up in Beirut after jumping bail in December and fleeing Tokyo with the help of a former Green Beret, who with his son is now facing extradition to Japan from the U.S.
Earlier this year, Ghosn promised the book would contain fresh revelations that would add to a narrative worthy of a Hollywood movie. It would show "clear evidence” of collusion between Nissan, Japanese prosecutors and the government, he said.
But "Le Temps de la Verite,” or "Time for the Truth,” mostly sticks to the defense his lawyers already have put forward: Claiming lack of proof for accusations of financial transgressions; the innocent "friendly backing” of a Saudi Arabian business partner, Khaled Juffali; and 10 levels of internal decision-making at Nissan that would have prevented any untoward use of company funds.
What Ghosn does deliver with his co-author, former journalist Philippe Ries, is his version of the arrest, interrogation and behind-the-scenes boardroom machinations at the automotive alliance, which is struggling in the aftermath of his dismissal. The 473-page tome also chronicles Ghosn’s career achievements, provides historical references and even includes management tips.
Ghosn takes aim at a broad array of players in the saga including Nissan, Renault, the governments of France and Japan, the Japanese justice system, the media and his first defense lawyers, deemed incompetent and "the worst team possible.”
Here’s what Ghosn had to say about some of the main players:
"Old Nissan” is how Ghosn describes what he sees as a cabal that allegedly worked to provoke his downfall and was led by board member Masakazu Toyoda, Hitoshi Kawaguchi, a former executive in charge of government relations, and auditor Hidetoshi Imazu. Hiroto Saikawa, his successor-turned-accuser — who himself had to step down as Nissan’s chief executive following a scandal over compensation — was also involved, according to Ghosn, as was Hari Nada, another insider, who was told to cooperate or he would go to prison.
A close, even friendly relationship between Kawaguchi and now-Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who was chief Cabinet secretary the time of Ghosn's arrest, lay at the heart of the alleged plot, according to Ghosn. He also points to lawyer Akihide Kumada, a former adviser to then-Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as having established contacts between Nissan plotters, the government and prosecutors. Ghosn has long maintained that Nissan and the government were jolted into action by his re-election to head Renault with a French government mandate to make the alliance irreversible, a move that threatened the Yokohama-based carmaker’s independence.
France comes under attack for what Ghosn terms as "appeasement” to the Japanese. He also faults the government for blindly seeking to raise its holding in Renault while ignoring potentially damaging consequences for the relationship with Nissan and Japan. The book also isn’t kind to Renault Chairman Jean-Dominique Senard, deemed the "anti-Ghosn” aristocrat who helped in the capitulation of Renault in the face of Nissan.
Ghosn and Ries slam coverage of the affair by both the Japanese and international press, saying journalists were guilty of laziness and regurgitation of a smear campaign worthy of Joseph Stalin’s propaganda machine. They take aim at the Japanese press for allegedly close ties with the prosecution and also point fingers at French business newspaper Les Echos — and more generally at the rest of the media — for publishing a steady stream of leaks against the executive.
While Ghosn dumps on France’s business elite for mostly failing to come to his defense, a number of protagonists are singled out for their support. These include Thierry Bollore, the former CEO of Renault who was fired last year, Jose Munoz, the former Nissan executive who left shortly after Ghosn’s arrest, Thierry Breton, now a European commissioner, former Renault general secretary Mouna Sepehri, Juffali and French diplomats. The chaotic scene at Nissan headquarters following his arrest is described in the book by Munoz and a computer specialist, while his daughter, Maya, was apparently told of an impending search warrant and the "plot” against her father by an unnamed tipster.
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