Ex-Nissan chairman Ghosn wants to restore his reputation


TOKYO (AP) – Carlos Ghosn, the former auto industry superstar whose career ended with his arrest three years ago, is not about to settle into a quiet retirement.

The former head of the Nissan-Renault alliance fled to Lebanon in late 2019, while on bail on charges of financial misconduct in Japan. In a recent interview with The Associated Press, Ghosn was confident, energetic and determined to fight to restore his reputation.

” I will be there. I will stand up for my rights as long as I have the energy to do so, ”Ghosn, 67, said via Zoom from his home in Beirut. His story is “far from over,” he said.

Ghosn fled Japan while hiding in a large cargo crate of a private jet. The French of Brazilian origin Ghosn took refuge in Lebanon, his ancestral homeland, which has no extradition treaty with Japan.

Ghosn said he was trying to get Interpol to raise its red flag, which calls on police around the world to search and arrest those wanted for prosecution or serving a sentence. He looks forward to being able to travel outside of Lebanon, but the process is likely to be long and bureaucratic.

Japanese prosecutors have said they still intend to prosecute him for allegations of underreporting his compensation and breach of trust by misusing Nissan money for personal gain – charges he denies.

Japan has extradition treaties with the United States and South Korea, and prosecutors have said they will seek help from other countries, including Brazil and France, if Ghosn goes there.

Aside from the main case in Japan, Ghosn is under investigation in France and is being sued by Nissan Motor Co. in Japan for alleged financial damage. Tokyo prosecutors refused to send his files to Lebanon for the criminal case to be tried there.

Nissan’s French alliance partner Renault sent Ghosn to Japan in 1999 to lead a turnaround when the Japanese automaker was on the verge of collapse. Under Ghosn, Nissan became more profitable than Renault. The partnership has expanded to include a smaller rival Mitsubishi Motors Corp. and other automakers. Nissan owns 15% of Renault, which owns a much larger 43% of Nissan. The French government owns 15% of Renault.

Analysts estimate the damage suffered by the Nissan-Renault alliance in the Ghosn scandal at billions of dollars in capital, turnover and brand image. Nissan expects to make a profit this fiscal year after losing money over the past two years.

Aaron Ho, analyst at New York-based CFRA Research, believes Nissan has fallen behind in a fiercely competitive industry because of the Ghosn scandal.

“Before Nissan resolves its internal issues regarding corporate power and reinvests its resources in making tangible progress – which takes a long time, and a lot of time has been wasted – to create values ​​for its final demand, we are not optimists. ” he said.

Ghosn claims the case against him was concocted in a power struggle within the Nissan boardroom. He said he wanted to show “a plot” by Nissan officials who, worried about a Renault takeover-type merger, led the Japanese authorities to initiate criminal proceedings against him.

“The only way for me to qualify them is: thugs, inside Nissan,” he said.

Nissan, which denounced Ghosn, does not comment on the Ghosn affair.

Testimony at the trial of Greg Kelly, a former senior Nissan Motor Co. executive who was arrested along with Ghosn, showed Nissan officials have sought prosecutors.

The case against Ghosn and Kelly centers on elaborate calculations to compensate Ghosn after his retirement for a salary cut he suffered from 2009, when the disclosure of top executive compensation became a legal requirement in Japan. .

Prosecutors allege Ghosn broke the law by failing to report this compensation, which was never paid or even formally agreed to. Kelly says he’s innocent and was trying to find legal ways to pay Ghosn to keep him.

Ironically, Ghosn says the money he allegedly failed to report was based on his retirement in 2018, the year of his arrest.

Ghosn looks anything but retired. He works on films, teaches management courses, consults for companies and helps with academic research on “character assassination”.

“See. Books, books, books,” he said, when asked what else he was working on.

“Broken Alliances”, an English version of the 2020 French book “Le temps de la verite”, was released in September. He writes a book with his wife Carole, also wanted in Japan, on their ordeal.

Human rights activists and other critics say Japanese system amounts to ‘hostage justice’, allowing suspects to be questioned for days without a lawyer present while in detention in solitary confinement in a small Spartan cell. The conviction rate of over 99% has raised questions about forced confessions.

“One of the things I could do for Japan is fight with all these people in Japan who oppose the hostage justice system,” Ghosn said.

His vehicle is still a Nissan, the Patrol sport utility vehicle, a model he worked on that is popular in the Middle East. And he insists that he could never have foreseen the problems that were heading his way.

“If someone told you before this happened that I was going to be arrested,” he said, “you would be laughing. You’d say, ‘Come on. It’s a joke. ‘ ”


Yuri Kageyama is on Twitter https://twitter.com/yurikageyama


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