Ghosn blames 'rivals' inside Nissan for arrest, denies allegations

Kyodo News

Posted at Jan 30 2019 10:15 PM

Carlos Ghosn, the former chairman of Nissan Motor Co., blames rivals inside the auto company for his arrest by Tokyo prosecutors on allegations of financial misconduct during his chairmanship.

In an interview with The Nikkei business daily posted online Wednesday, Ghosn says there is "no doubt" that "plot and treason" were committed by Nissan executives determined to throw off a plan of deeper integration between Nissan and two other car companies.

The interview was his first opportunity to defend himself in person after his arrest on Nov. 19 and solitary detention, aside from one public hearing earlier this month.

Ghosn acknowledged that "there was a plan to integrate" Renault SA, Mitsubishi Motors Corp. and Nissan and that he wanted "autonomy under one holding company."

Ghosn said he spoke to Nissan CEO Hiroto Saikawa about the plan two months before his arrest but Saikawa seemed uninterested in including Mitsubishi CEO Osamu Masuko in their talks.

Tokyo prosecutors have accused the former chairman of understating his remuneration by around 9 billion yen ($83 million) in Nissan's securities reports over eight years through last March.

He is also charged with aggravated breach of trust for having transferred to Nissan personal losses worth 1.85 billion yen from his private asset management company in 2008, and have the company pay $14.7 million to Khaled al-Juffali, a Saudi businessman who extended credit to him.

In the interview, Ghosn says the payment was above-board. "The executive in charge of the region signed (the approval)," and the "CEO reserve" from which the payment was made is "not a black box" and "four officers signed" off on the payment to al-Juffali, he said.

Luxury properties in Rio de Janeiro and Beirut, which were held up as misuse of company funds, were approved by the legal department for business purposes, he claimed.

Ghosn pointed the finger back at Nissan in the interview, saying he did not know whether he did something improper as he is not a lawyer and does not "know the interpretation of (such) facts," asking "Why didn't they tell me?"

Ghosn also claimed that accusations by Nissan and Mitsubishi of receiving improper payments of 7.82 million euros from the companies' overseas joint venture was a "distortion on reality."

The arrests have cost Ghosn his positions at Nissan, Mitsubishi and Renault, and his absence has led to questions about the alliance's future.

Ghosn was its lynchpin of the alliance formed by the three automakers and led a variety of joint operations under the partnership.

Accusations have flown that too much power was concentrated in his hands, allowing him to personally profit with little oversight.

Nissan is widely viewed as seeking to reduce Renault's influence in its management, with the French automaker holding a 43.4 percent stake in Nissan, and the Japanese company owning only 15 percent and no voting rights.

In turn, Renault, backed by the French government, has been attempting to thwart any diminishment of its influence.

Asked about the alliance's future, Ghosn said, "I cannot speculate."

Ghosn's lawyers have failed to get bail due to the court's concerns he would be a flight risk and also possibly try to conceal or destroy evidence.

However, Ghosn said, "All the evidence is with Nissan," adding, "I won't flee, I will defend (myself)."

Asked about his life in the detention center, he said "there is up and down" and that he is "doing fine" in terms of health.