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Ex-Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn tell court he was 'wrongly accused and unfairly detained'

Ghosn was arrested in November on suspicion of under-declaring his income by some €38 million between 2010 and 2015.

Carlos Ghosn
Carlos Ghosn
Image: Blondet Eliot/ABACA via PA Images

FORMER NISSAN BOSS Carlos Ghosn has said he had been “wrongly accused and unfairly detained” at a high-profile court hearing in Japan, his first appearance since his arrest in November rocked the business world.

Ghosn (64) was arrested on 19 November on suspicion of under-declaring his income by some €38 million between 2010 and 2015.

“I have been wrongly accused and unfairly detained based on meritless and unsubstantiated accusations,” he told the Tokyo District Court.

In a career spanning decades, during which he won praise for turning around the struggling Japanese carmaker, he said he had “always acted with integrity” and had never before been accused of any wrongdoing.

“I have acted honourably, legally and with the knowledge and approval of the appropriate executives inside the company,” Ghosn said.

In an indication of the interest the case has sparked in Japan, more than 1,000 people waited outside the court from the early hours in the hope of getting one of just 14 tickets for the public gallery.

Today’s hearing itself caught observers off-guard as Ghosn’s lawyers deployed a rarely-used article of the Japanese Constitution to force the court to explain the reasons for his detention.

Presiding Judge Yuichi Tada read out the charges against Ghosn and said he was being detained because he was a flight risk and there was a possibility he would conceal evidence.

The suspect has “bases in foreign countries” and may “escape”, Tada said.

Go Kondo, one of Ghosn’s lawyers, countered: “There is no risk that he will run away. He’s CEO of French company Renault. He’s widely known so it’s difficult for him to escape.”

Ghosn is expected to be kept in custody until at least 11 January.

‘Greatest joy’

He faces a host of allegations of financial impropriety.

Prosecutors have formally charged him over suspicions he under-declared some five billion yen (€40 million) from his salary in documents to investors over five fiscal years from 2010 – apparently to avoid accusations he was paid too much.

Authorities also suspect he continued this scheme over the next three tax years, seeking to defer another four billion yen of his salary until after retirement.

A third, more complex, accusation is that he sought to shift personal foreign exchange losses onto Nissan’s books and then paid a business contact from Saudi Arabia some €12.8 million – supposedly from company funds – who allegedly stumped up collateral for him.

Ghosn has not been formally charged over the latter two allegations and systematically rebutted all of them in court.

“I never received any compensation from Nissan that was not disclosed,” he said.

He added that Nissan never incurred any losses from his foreign exchange contracts and that the Saudi partner, Khaled Juffali, was “appropriately compensated” for “critical services that substantially benefited Nissan”.

A statement issued on behalf of Juffali’s company, the first since the allegations emerged, said the compensation was for work done to benefit Nissan, including resolving a local business dispute and lobbying for the approval for a new plant in Saudi Arabia.

© AFP 2019  

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