Nissan ex-chair Ghosn set on restoring reputation

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Former auto industry superstar Carlos Ghosn, whose career came to a halt with his arrest three years ago, is not settling into quiet retirement.

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

“I’m going to go there. As long as I have the energy to do it, I’m going to defend my rights,” Ghosn, 67, said via Zoom from his home in Beirut. His story “ends far away”, he said.


Ghosn fled Japan by hiding in a large cargo box in a private jet. French, Brazilian-born Ghosn took refuge in his native homeland Lebanon, which has no extradition treaty with Japan.

Ghosn said he was trying to drop his red flag to Interpol, which urges police around the world to seek and arrest individuals wanted for prosecution or serving sentences. He is eager to be able to travel outside Lebanon, but the process is likely to be bureaucratic and lengthy.

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Japanese prosecutors say they are still intent on pursuing him over allegations of breach of trust in under-reporting of his compensation and misusing Nissan’s money for personal gain – charges they deny.

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

In addition to the main case in Japan, Ghosn is under investigation in France and is being sued by Nissan Motor Co in Japan for alleged financial damages. Tokyo prosecutors have refused to send his files to Lebanon for criminal trial.

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

Analysts estimate the Nissan-Renault alliance has lost billions of dollars in capital value, sales and brand image damage in the Ghosn scandal. Nissan expects to turn a profit this fiscal after losing money for the past two years.

New York-based CFRA Research analyst Aaron Ho believes the Ghosn scandal has left Nissan behind in a highly competitive industry.

“Before Nissan rests on corporate power to resolve its internal issues and channel its resources back into tangible progress – which takes a lot of time, and a lot of wasted time – to create value for its ultimate demand, we are optimistic.” are not,” she said.

Ghosn claims that the case against him was fabricated in a power struggle within Nissan’s boardroom. He said he wanted to show “a conspiracy” by Nissan executives, who were concerned about a merger such as a takeover by Renault, got Japanese authorities to run a criminal case against him.

“There’s only way I can qualify them: thugs, inside Nissan,” he said.

Nissan, which has condemned Ghosn, did not comment on the Ghosn case.

Testimony at the trial of Greg Kelly, a former top executive at Nissan Motor Co., who was arrested at the same time as Ghosn, has shown that Nissan executives were looking for prosecutors.

The case against Ghosn and Kelly focused on detailed calculations to compensate Ghosn after retirement for pay cuts that began in 2009, when the disclosure of large executive pay became a legal requirement in Japan.

Prosecutors allege that Ghosn broke the law by failing to report compensation that was never paid or even formally agreed to. Kelly maintains that he is innocent, and tries 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 he was arrested.

Ghosn looks anything but retired. He is working on films, teaching classes on management, consulting for businesses and helping with university research on “character killing”.

“Look. Books, books, books,” he said, when asked what else he is working on.

“Broken Alliance,” an English version of the 2020 French book “Le temps de la Verite,” was released in September. He is writing a book with his wife, Carol, who also wants to know about his ordeal in Japan.

Human rights advocates and other critics say Japan’s system is the equivalent of “hostage justice”, allowing suspects to be interrogated for several days without a lawyer while they are held 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 the people who are opposed to the hostage justice system in Japan,” Ghosn said.

His ride is still a Nissan, a petrol sport-utility vehicle, a model he worked on that is popular in the Middle East. And he insists that there was no way he could foresee the trouble that was coming his way.

“If someone was telling you before this happened that I was going to be arrested,” he said, “you would laugh. You would say, ‘Come on. This is a joke.’ ”


Yuri Kageyama is on Twitter


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