Nissan ex-boss breaks silence, says he is victim of 'conspiracy'

Ousted Nissan Motor chairman Carlos Ghosn's video message being played at a news conference at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan in Tokyo yesterday. In the video, which was recorded before his arrest last week, he blamed Nissan's executives o
Ousted Nissan Motor chairman Carlos Ghosn's video message being played at a news conference at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan in Tokyo yesterday. In the video, which was recorded before his arrest last week, he blamed Nissan's executives of "playing a dirty game". PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

TOKYO • A defiant Carlos Ghosn accused "backstabbing" former colleagues of conspiring to oust him as Nissan chairman and of threatening the Japanese automaker's future, in a video marking his first public address since his initial arrest last year.

Prosecutors took the highly unusual step of re-arresting Ghosn last Thursday on fresh allegations that he used company funds to enrich himself by US$5 million (S$6.8 million).

The once-feted executive, who had been out on US$9 million bail for 30 days, recorded the video the day before he went back to jail.

"If you are listening to me on this video, it means I was not able to make the press conference I scheduled for April 11," Ghosn said.

In the video, shown to reporters by his lawyers in Tokyo, the former Nissan Motor chairman said he was the victim of selfish rivals bent on derailing a closer alliance between the automaker and French partner Renault.

"This is not about greed or dictatorship, this is about a plot, this is about a conspiracy, this is about a backstabbing," Ghosn said.

"I am innocent of all the charges that have been brought against me," he said, without explaining further.

 
 
 
 

The video, and comments by his lawyer, Mr Junichiro Hironaka, alleging harsh treatment by prosecutors against Ghosn and his wife, Carole, cast Ghosn as the victim of internal rivalries and a Japanese judicial system bent on forcing a confession.

The seven-minute clip was edited by his legal team to remove the names of people Ghosn accused of treachery due to legal concerns.

The conspiracy, Ghosn said, was born out of fear that he would bring Nissan closer to Renault, also its top shareholder.

"There was fear that the next step of the alliance in terms of convergence and in terms of moving towards a merger, would in a certain way threaten some people or eventually threaten the autonomy of Nissan," he said.

Ghosn also blamed Nissan's current management for three profit warnings and a domestic scandal involving improper vehicle inspections since his departure as CEO in 2017.

Ghosn's second stint at the Tokyo detention centre comes after he served 108 days following his first arrest on Nov 19.

He has been charged with under-reporting his Nissan salary for a decade and of temporarily transferring personal financial losses to Nissan's books. However, the latest allegation is potentially more serious, as it could show he used company funds for his own purposes.

REUTERS

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 10, 2019, with the headline 'Nissan ex-boss breaks silence, says he is victim of 'conspiracy''. Print Edition | Subscribe