Carlos Ghosn says fellow executives plotted to oust him

Nissan’s former chairman claims ‘plot and treason’ in first interview since his arrest

Nissan’s former chairman Carlos Ghosn has accused fellow executives of a plot to oust him and prevent closer ties with the carmaker’s French partner, Renault, in his first interview since his arrest in November.

The Japanese newspaper Nikkei reported that it spoke with Ghosn for 20 minutes at the Tokyo detention centre where the 64-year-old executive has been held since his arrest on 19 November.

Prosecutors have charged Ghosn with falsifying financial reports in under-reporting his compensation. He has also been indicted on charges of breach of trust related to his handling of investment losses and to payments made to a Saudi businessman.

Ghosn said he was innocent and others in the company had schemed to force him out with “plot and treason”. Nissan’s report into alleged misconduct was for the “purpose of getting rid of me”, he was quoted as saying.

He told Nikkei he discussed a plan to integrate Nissan with Renault and their smaller alliance partner Mitsubishi Motors with Hiroto Saikawa, Nissan’s chief executive, in September.

The plan was to bring Nissan, Renault and Mitsubishi closer together and ensure they had “autonomy under one holding company”, he told Nikkei.

Any plan to move control of Nissan out of Japan would be politically sensitive. Nissan and Mitsubishi both moved to oust Ghosn from their boards immediately after his arrest, but Renault declined to do so for two months, until pressure from the French government, a major shareholder, reportedly prompted him to resign earlier this month.

Ghosn’s resignation from Renault brought to an end almost two decades at the top of the carmaking industry.

During that time the French-Brazilian-Lebanese businessman earned superstar status in Japan for leading Renault’s alliance with the struggling Nissan, which Mitsubishi joined later.

However, Nissan executives have spoken of rebalancing the alliance, which sold 10.8m vehicles during 2018. Renault owns 43.4% of Nissan, despite the latter contributing more profits. Nissan owns 15% of Renault and 34% of Mitsubishi.

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Nissan said prosecutors took action following an internal investigation into the actions of Ghosn and Greg Kelly, another former executive at the company, set off by whistleblowers.

“The sole cause of this chain of events is the misconduct led by Ghosn and Kelly,” a Nissan spokesman said.

As well as the allegations which prompted his arrest, Nissan’s investigation “uncovered substantial and convincing evidence of misconduct, resulting in a unanimous board vote to dismiss Ghosn and Kelly”, he added.


Jasper Jolly and agencies

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