Carlos Ghosn Is Mad as Hell
Speaking to reporters directly today for the first time since his arrest in November 2018, former Nissan and Renault CEO Carlos Ghosn described himself as the victim of a “character assassination” by Nissan executives and the Japanese media. In a wide-ranging press conference, he laid out his case for how he has been unfairly treated by the justice system and the public.
According to Ghosn, every expense and perk he received was authorized through the correct channels at Nissan. He compared his unexpected arrest in Japan to the Pearl Harbor attacks of 1941, noting his complete surprise at the allegations. Ghosn was “brutally taken from [his] world as [he] knew it,” the former CEO told reporters.
Since then, he described a long legal process that’s seen him rearrested on fresh charges multiple times. As we detailed in our “What the Hell Is Going On With Carlos Ghosn?” explainer, the former CEO has complained about his inability to see his family, his limited access to counsel, and his lengthy jail terms despite not having been convicted. The Japanese prosecutors’ constant delays and seeming unwillingness to bring him to trial, he noted, is evidence of his innocence.
Japan has been criticized—by Ghosn and others—for its so-called “hostage justice system,” which detractors say coerces confessions by denying the accused access to family or the outside world. As Ghosn put it, it’s “a system that is indifferent to the truth” and is “designed to break [my] spirit and coerce [my] confession.” Not being able to see his wife, he said, was particularly painful.
“They put me on my knees,” Ghosn said. “From Nov. 19, 2018, to Dec. 30 2019, until I met my wife [again], who was the first person I met when I arrived at the house of her parents. I was numb. I had no feeling… When you have feeling, you’re in danger,” he added later in the conference.”
His escape and subsequent status as a fugitive, he argues, was his way of pursuing fair treatment and the truth.
“I left Japan because I wanted justice. I didn’t run from justice, I wanted justice,” Ghosn said.
Ghosn said he started planning his escape “When first I lost any hope of a fair trial. When I noticed the trial was constantly postponed.”
The Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office, in a statement, defended his strict bail conditions and lengthy jail stay. The wealthy and connected CEO was considered a high flight risk, as proven by the fact that he did eventually flee. He wasn’t allowed to contact his wife because she was an alleged accomplice in his financial misconduct.
The Prosecutors Office also noted that it has collected sufficient evidence and properly coordinated with the defense to ensure a fair trial. His press conference, through Japan’s perspective, is not. The statement says that Ghosn’s “one-sided criticism of the Japanese criminal justice system is totally unacceptable.”
Ghosn argued that his whole arrest saga is the result of a plot by Nissan executives to unseat him. He named his replacement, Hiroto Saikawa, as one of the main conspirators against him. Multiple other executives were also involved, he alleges, as some at Nissan wanted him out.
There are two main reasons, Ghosn believes, why Nissan executives worked to have him arrested and have continued cooperating with prosecutors. The first is that the company’s performance was starting to decline. Even though he wasn’t the CEO anymore, he was still Chairman. As the tides turned at the company, he says it gave people a perfect excuse to ditch him.
The second reason relates to Renaults’s failed merger with Fiat Chrysler. Per Ghosn, the move to merge Renault with another company deeply upset Nissan. Despite the Renault-Nissan Alliance, Nissan had little power to stop a seriously consequential merger with its key ally. This, Ghosn alleges, ruffled feathers with people inside Nissan and in the Japanese government, who saw it as a betrayal.
Ghosn believes that this is what led Nissan to conspire with Japanese officials to arrest him. The Prosecutors office called these allegations “categorically false and completely contrary to fact.”
With all of this supposed collusion against him, the embattled former CEO said he was “resigned to the impossibility of a fair trial.” That’s how he ended up making a daring, Hollywood-style escape that landed him back in Lebanon, where he grew up.
Nissan continues to condemn Ghosn, noting in a recent statement that the company found “incontrovertible evidence” of his wrongdoing during a thorough internal investigation. It also notes that Ghosn’s also been charged by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and is still being investigated in France.
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