Carlos Ghosn speaks of injustice at first press conference since arrest

Jan 8, 2020   OEM

The former Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance chief spoke at a press conference in Lebanon on January 8 of his reasons for fleeing Japan and his fight for justice under an unfair system in Japan, and gave a detailed breakdown and repudiation of the charges levelled against him.

Ghosn spoke of a "handful of malevolent actors who sought to destroy my reputation", he spoke of the pain that his family has been put through by the, "relentless and shameless attacks by Japanese executives and prosecutors".

He said that the Japanese system is “indifferent to the truth”, “My ordeal is a result of unscrupulous executives at Nissan and the judicial authorities. I did NOT escape justice, I fled injustice,” he emphasised. "I was left with no other choice but to flee, with the prospect of the impossibility of a fair trial. I was facing a system where conviction rate is 99.4% and I bet it is higher for foreigners, the charges against me are baseless, why else have the prosecutors continually delayed the still undetermined trial date?”

Ghosn ran through several topics, with slides showing the prosecution papers and the original information from Alliance auditors which appeared to exonerate him from all charges.
He spoke of the background to the accusations: “Nissan performance started to decline in 2017, I took myself out in end of 2016 when I moved to Mitsubishi as chairman of the board. Nissan, a company that was ‘dead’ in 1999 is now one of the top 60 brands in the world. I was at Nissan for 17 years, delivering profit.” Ghosn addressed the accusations of favouritism in appointing certain board members, saying, “Board members may be proposed by their predecessor - me in some circumstances - but are always appointed by the board."

Speaking of the underlying factors, he said that Nissan was keen to regain some control of the Alliance board: The French government’s voting rights involvement prevented the board of Renault-Nissan awarding voting rights to Nissan. I wanted to retire in 2018 but I was asked to continue integrating the two companies. There was no trust and our Japanese friends thought the only way to get influence in the Alliance was to get rid of me.”

Ghosn said that he did not ever propose a full merger between Renault and Nissan but recommended a holding company and that this would allow Nissan the autonomy they desired but, “in the end, one side said ‘we want all the power’.”

He said that collusion between Nissan and the prosecutors is everywhere, “This became clear when witnesses were coached at some length before my arrest.”

Naming names

Ghosn named the following current and former Nissan executives as being involved in the 'plot' to oust him: Hiroto Saikawa, Nissan's CEO at the time, Toshiaki Onuma a former senior Nissan administrator, Hari Nada, Nissan's former head of legal, Masakazu Toyoda, the former Japanese trade ministry official who heads Nissan's nomination committee, Hidetoshi Imazu, a former internal auditor and  Hitoshi Kawaguchi, an ex-executive who was in charge of government relations.

Addressing another specific charge, he said that, “the prosecutor told me, 'you are being arrested for under-reporting compensation that was NOT paid to you'. This shows how ridiculous the charges were.”

Speaking about his treatment in the Japanese legal system, Ghosn detailed the sequence of events and at times seemed stunned by the treatment he received, saying, “I felt I was not a human any more, when I was given two hours with my wife after nine months imprisonment.” He spent nearly 130 days in solitary confinement as prosecutors repeatedly arrested him on different counts. He also said he was interrogated for as long as eight hours a day without a clear explanation of the charges against him.

He said that he was told that it was likely that he would have to stay in Japan for five years before any judgement would be passed, of which he said: “I felt like a hostage in the country that I love, where I brought Nissan from being in the dirt, to great success, working for 17 years.”

Ghosn covered the issues of the party held in Versailles for his wife’s 50th birthday, showing the documents that appeared to exonerate him and his family from receiving a known benefit.
Likewise the houses in Rio de Janeiro and Lebanon were explained as being the property of the Alliance and that they could be sold back to Ghosn at market value; they were his business residences during his time as CEO.

He talked of getting FCA to join the Alliance, discussions with John Elkann. He said that the Alliance missed the ‘unmissable’ opportunity of FCA, that FCA were the perfect fit with the Alliance, he said it is ‘unbelievable’ that this merger did not happen.

He said that the conclusion of the FCA deal was very close in January 2018, when he was arrested. “I think the deal was a great waste for Renault, but it is a great opportunity for PSA.”

Addressing the accusations of greed, Ghosn revealed that he had been approached to head up General Motors: “I was offered double the pay, in 2009, to become CEO of GM - but they were tough times for all companies and a captain does not desert the ship when it is in trouble”, speaking of Nissan’s difficulties during the credit crunch/global financial crisis.

When asked what his plan is now, and will he live his life as an international fugitive, he said, “I am used to doing ‘mission impossible’. Yes, in the short term I am here in Lebanon but I am not going to give up. You can expect me to take some initiatives to clear my name, in the next week. I want to be remembered as an important actor in the global car industry, not as someone who runs from a problem.”

Ghosn was asked if he would risk travelling to France, as the French authorities have said that he would not be extradited from there. “I am happy here in Lebanon but I have to clear my name. I cannot accept that lies and fabrication can prevail.”

When asked if the very top level of Japanese government was involved in the plot to oust him, he said he did not believe that and that he would be prepared to stand trial anywhere in the world where he could get a fair trial, not something that he could be assured, even by his own lawyers, that could happen in Japan.

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