Carlos Ghosn says 'backstabbing' Nissan conspiring against him

In video message ex-chairman says he is innocent and talks of fears for company’s future

Carlos Ghosn has accused Nissan executives of conspiring to have him arrested over unfounded fears about his plans for the Japanese carmaker, and saying he had been unfairly portrayed as a “dictator” by “backstabbing” former colleagues.

In a video recorded shortly before he was rearrested in Tokyo last week, the former Nissan chairman said he looked forward to a fair trial – a date for which has yet to be set – and he feared for Nissan’s future.

Dressed in a dark blue jacket and white shirt, Ghosn began the eight-minute message by asserting his innocence: “The first message is that I’m innocent,” he said in the video, shown to journalists by his lawyers on Tuesday. “I am innocent of all the charges that have been brought against me.

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

The 65-year-old, who was freed on bail in early March after 108 days in detention in Tokyo, did not discuss in detail the allegations of financial misconduct that have rocked Nissan and cast doubt on the future of its alliance with Renault.

A Twitter account in Ghosn’s name said last week he was planning to “tell the truth” to the media on 11 April, but he was rarrested the following day over allegations that he siphoned off $5m (£3.8m) in Nissan funds for personal use, including the purchase of a yacht.

Carlos Ghosn was one of the biggest figures in the global car industry until his arrest for alleged financial misconduct. He forged an alliance between France’s Renault and Japan’s Nissan and Mitsubishi Motors – he was chair of Nissan, chief executive and chairman of Renault and chairman of Mitsubishi.

19 November 2018
Ghosn is arrested by Japanese police on his arrival at a Tokyo airport. This follows the arrest hours earlier of Nissan board member Greg Kelly, a key ally of Ghosn’s. Both are sent to a detention centre in Tokyo. Nissan and Mitsubishi say they will both remove Ghosn as chairman.

20 November 2018
Renault retains Ghosn as chairman and CEO, but appoints Thierry Bolloré as interim CEO in Ghosn’s absence.

22 November 2018
Nissan board sacks Ghosn as chairman.

26 November 2018
Misubishi sacks Ghosn as chairman.

10 December 2018
Prosecutors add to the charges against Ghosn and Kelly, who are accused of underreporting Ghosn’s income over five years to 2015. They are are rearrested on allegations of understating Ghosn’s income for three more years to March 2018.

13 December 2018
Renault retains Ghosn as chairman and chief executive after finding no irregularities in his pay packages.

20 December 2018
A Tokyo court rejects a motion from prosecutors to extend the detentions of Ghosn and Kelly.

21 December 2018
Ghosn is re-arrested on allegations of aggravated breach of trust, accused of shifting personal investment losses to Nissan in 2008. The legal team for Kelly, who suffers from spinal stenosis and needs surgery, requests his release on bail.

24 December 2018
Kelly is released on bail, after paying £507,000 in cash.

31 December 2018
A Tokyo court extends Ghosn’s detention by 10 days.

8 January 2019
Ghosn proclaims his innocence during a court hearing. A judge says continued detention is necessary due to flight risk and the possibility of concealing evidence.

10 January 2019
Renault says it has found no evidence of illegal or fraudulent payments to Ghosn.

11 January 2019
Ghosn is indicted on two new charges of financial misconduct.

14 January 2019
Ghosn’s wife says he is suffering “draconian” treatment in prison.

18 January 2019
Nissan and Mitsubishi accuse Ghosn of receiving €7.8m (£6.9m) in “improper payments” from a joint venture between the carmakers.

24 January 2019
Renault appoints Jean-Dominique Senard as chairman and Thierry Bolloré as chief executive.

28 January 2019
Nissan confirms it is being investigated by the US Securities and Exchange Commission.

30 January 2019
Ghosn accuses Nissan executives of a plot to oust him and prevent closer ties with Renault, in his first interview since his arrest in November.

12 February 2019
Nissan cuts profit forecast and takes £65m charge related to the scandal.

13 February 2019
Renault’s board of directors votes to strip Ghosn of up to £26m in pay and severance.

6 March 2019
Ghosn is released on bail and must live under strict bail conditions. His lawyer, Motonari Otsuru, quits.

12 March 2019
Nissan, Renault and Mitsubishi pledge a 'new start' for the alliance, breaking up the all-powerful chairmanship previously occupied by Ghosn.

3 April 2019
Renault says his investigation found Ghosn violated its ethical practices.Two days later, Ghosn is re-arrested and detained for 10 days.

8 April 2019
Nissan shareholders sack Ghosn from the company board and replace him with Renault chairman Jean-Dominique Senard. The next day, Ghosn accuses executives of conspiring against him in a video. 
Julia Kollewe

Ghosn already faces three separate charges: two of underreporting his salary by tens of millions of dollars, and one of using Nissan funds to cover personal investment losses.

“I love Japan and I love Nissan,” he said. “Nobody spends 20 years in a country, nobody spends 20 years in the leadership of a company without love and without attachment, and without engagement.”

The Frenchman, who also has Brazilian and Lebanese nationality, arrived in Japan in the late 1990s and was credited with rescuing Nissan from the brink of bankruptcy, before forging a successful alliance with Renault and Mitsubishi Motors.

His wife, Carole, who was with him when he was rearrested early last Thursday morning, said he would name “the people responsible” in the video, but his head lawyer, Junichiro Hironaka, told journalists that the defence team had decided to edit specific allegations out of the recording.

Ghosn repeated claims that a handful of Nissan executives were behind a conspiracy to have him arrested, allegedly over fears that he was planning to take Nissan into a merger with Renault that would weaken the Japanese company’s position.

“This is a conspiracy,” he said. “This is not about specific events, or greed or dictatorship. This is about a plot. This is about conspiracy. This is about backstabbing.

“There was fear that the next step of the alliance in terms of convergence and in terms of moving towards a merger, would in a certain way threaten some people or eventually threaten the autonomy of Nissan.

“I have been the fiercest defender of the autonomy of Nissan and I made it clear that whatever steps are taken in the future that the autonomy would continue.”

Ghosn said Nissan executives had failed to lead the company properly while he was in detention. “We are talking about people who really played a very dirty game … but hopefully the truth will happen,” he said. “Who was taking care of Nissan, who was taking care of the brand, who was defending the corporate value and corporate interests? This is very sad, and for someone like me it is sickening.”

The video was shown soon after Carole Ghosn left Japan to try to win support for her husband from the French government, which has a 15% stake in Renault.

She left on Friday, using her US passport after Japanese prosecutors confiscated her Lebanese one, along with her mobile phone. “I don’t think [the French government] have done enough,” she told the Financial Times (£)before boarding her flight. “I don’t think he’s had enough support and he’s calling for assistance. As a French citizen, it should be a right.”

However, the French finance minister, Bruno Le Maire, told FranceInfo radio that political intervention by France might not be the best way to help Ghosn.

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Ghosn is due to remain in detention until 14 April, when prosecutors can apply to hold him for an additional 10 days. After that they must release him unless they bring charges or file new allegations.

Hironaka said on Tuesday he planned to appeal to the supreme court against the latest detention.

Asked to comment on the video, a Nissan spokesman, Nicholas Maxfield, said: “Nissan’s internal investigation has uncovered substantial evidence of blatantly unethical conduct. The company’s focus remains on addressing weaknesses in governance that enabled this misconduct.”

Wire agencies contributed to this report.


Justin McCurry in Tokyo

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