PARIS (BLOOMBERG) - French President Emmanuel Macron told Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that he is worried about Carlos Ghosn's time in jail, commenting in public about the detention of the auto industry titan who's facing charges of financial misconduct.
"All I'll say is that I felt the detention was too long and too hard, and I told Abe that," Mr Macron told reporters on Sunday (Jan 27) in Cairo, referring to a telephone conversation with Mr Abe last Friday.
"I'm just concerned that the case of a French citizen should respect basic decency."
It was Mr Macron's strongest comment yet in a two-month crisis triggered by the arrest and incarceration of a business icon whose demise as the head of Renault threatens a two-decade alliance with Nissan Motor.
Mr Macron's foray risks being seen as meddling in Japan's justice system.
Japan defended its criminal justice system on Monday. “We understand an investigation into a criminal case is conducted by highly independent investigative authorities in accordance with due procedures through strict judicial reviews,” Japanese government spokesman Yoshihide Suga told a news conference.
Ghosn has been in custody since his Nov 19 arrest in Tokyo. He has been indicted for allegedly understating his income at Nissan and transferring personal trading losses to the carmaker.
He has been denied bail after Japanese prosecutors argued he is a flight risk. His lawyers say he could stay in custody until a trial that could be six months away.
France's government owns 15 per cent of Renault with extra voting rights, while the latter holds about 43 per cent of Nissan with voting rights, giving the French state an indirect say in decisions that sometimes affect the Japanese carmaker.
Nissan has a 15 per cent non-voting stake in Renault. Ghosn resigned last week and Renault appointed Michelin chief executive officer Jean-Dominique Senard as chairman and Mr Thierry Bollore as CEO.
"We will be diligent to ensure the stability of the group," Mr Macron said.
The President has a history with Renault. On Sunday, he defended an increase in the French stake in 2015 on his watch as economy minister. It was a move that had rattled Nissan.
"I was happy I intervened, because I felt that Ghosn had gone too far in the 'Nipponization' of the group," he said.