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Ghosn accuses Nissan execs of ‘backstabbing’ plot

Carlos Ghosn has accused “backstabbing” Nissan executives of a “conspiracy” to have him arrested over fears he planned to merge the Japanese firm with France’s Renault, in a video released Tuesday.

The footage, recorded shortly before Ghosn was re-arrested by prosecutors in Tokyo last week, did not however point the finger at specific individuals, with the tycoon’s lawyer saying it had been edited to remove names.

The video was the latest twist in a rollercoaster case that has defied expectations since the shock arrest of the 65-year-old last November.

In the brief recording, played by his lawyers at a press conference, Ghosn appeared at a desk in a white shirt and black suit jacket and repeated that he was “innocent of all the charges that have been brought against me.”

He denounced a “conspiracy” against him and said events had been “twisted in a way to paint a personage of greed, a personage of dictatorship.”

“This is about a plot, this is about conspiracy, this is about backstabbing,” he said in the video.

He said the “conspiracy” was motivated by “a 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.”

In addition to heading Nissan, Ghosn also oversaw the alliance that groups the automaker with Renault and Japan’s Mitsubishi Motors. He has previously suggested that concerns at Nissan about closer integration led to his arrest.

‘Legal risks’ 

But while Ghosn’s wife Carole had said the auto tycoon would name “the people responsible” in the video, his lead lawyer Junichiro Hironaka told journalists that the defence team had opted to edit specific allegations out of the recording.

“There are various legal risks if we mention actual names in the video,” Hironaka said, adding that Ghosn had agreed to the edits.

Ghosn was re-arrested last week while out on bail after prosecutors announced they were investigating his transfers of Nissan funds totalling $15-million between late 2015 and the middle of 2018 to a dealership in Oman.

They suspect around $5 million of these funds were siphoned off for Ghosn’s use, including for the purchase of a luxury yacht and financing personal investments.

Prosecutors accuse Ghosn of having “betrayed” his duty not to cause losses to Nissan “in order to benefit himself.”

Ghosn already faces three formal charges: two of deferring his salary and concealing that in official shareholders’ documents, and a further charge of seeking to shift investment losses to the firm.

And his rearrest came after news that Renault had handed French prosecutors documents showing Ghosn had authorised suspicious transfers worth million of euros.

Ghosn is due to remain in detention until April 14, when prosecutors can apply to hold him for an additional 10 days. After that they must release him unless they bring charges or file new allegations.

Hironaka said Tuesday he planned to appeal the detention to the Supreme Court, and would fight any extension if that bid failed.

Ousted 

Ghosn spent 108 days in a detention centre in northern Tokyo before being dramatically released on bail of around $9-million on March 6, emerging from incarceration dressed in a workman’s uniform and face mask in an apparent bid to avoid the media.

His bail conditions required him to live in a court-appointed apartment, and he avoided commenting on his situation despite huge media interest.

However, just as reports began to surface that he could be rearrested, Ghosn emerged on Twitter to announce plans to hold an April 11 news conference.

Shortly after his arrest, his wife Carole — who had been living in Tokyo with Ghosn while he was on bail — left Japan.

She told a French newspaper she had been forced to flee Tokyo with support from the French ambassador and was able to use her US passport after having to surrender her Lebanese one to prosecutors.

Prosecutors reportedly wanted to question her on a voluntary basis over suspicions company money allegedly misused by Ghosn could have transited through a business that was run by his wife.

Nissan shareholders on Monday voted to remove Ghosn from the board, replacing him with Renault chairman Jean-Dominique Senard.

Ghosn had already been stripped of his role as Nissan chief, but a shareholder vote was required to remove him from the board.

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Natsuko Fukue
Natsuko Fukue
Journalist @AFP Agence France-Presse in Tokyo. Often covering ageing Japan and the country's long working culture. Love dancing.
Sara Hussein
Sara Hussein
Deputy news editor @AFP Tokyo. Sideline in science/environment reporting. Recovering Middle East reporter.

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