Nissan Motor Co.'s former Chairman Carlos Ghosn on Tuesday appeared in public for the first time since his arrest on Nov. 19 at a Tokyo court where he robustly maintained his innocence regarding allegations of financial misconduct that have led to his lengthy detention.
Pedestrians watch large-scale screen displaying a news program reporting on former Nissan Motor Co Ltd chairman Carlos Ghosn attending a court hearing at Tokyo district court, in Tokyo, Japan, 08 January 2019. (Photo: IC)
At the request of Ghosn and his lawyers, he was granted permission to voice his opinions in the court for the first time since his arrest on the allegations he vastly under-reported his remuneration and other charges.
Prior to Ghosn addressing the allegations against him, he voiced his affection for Nissan and maintained that his actions had all been above board and focused on elevating Nissan's position in Japan.
"First, let me say that I have a genuine love and appreciation for Nissan. I believe strongly that in all of my efforts on behalf of the company, I have acted honorably, legally, and with the knowledge and approval of the appropriate executives inside the company, with the sole purpose of supporting and strengthening Nissan, and helping to restore its place as one of Japan's finest and most respected companies," the automotive heavyweight said.
The ousted chairman went on to say that he did not violate Japan's Financial Instruments and Exchange Act because the amount of the unpaid portion of his compensation, a key charge facing him, had yet to be determined.
He also said allegations that he transferred personal investment losses to Nissan during the 2008 global financial crisis, which led to his detention in Tokyo being extended, were baseless.
In terms of contentions that he wittingly chose not to disclose his remuneration, which sparked suspicions that he committed breach of trust, Ghosn was candid in his rebuttal of the allegations directed at him by prosecutors.
"Contrary to the accusations made by the prosecutors, I never received any compensation from Nissan that was not disclosed, nor did I ever enter into any binding contract with Nissan to be paid a fixed amount that was not disclosed," the 64-year old said.
"Moreover, I understood that any draft proposals for post-retirement compensation were reviewed by internal and external lawyers, showing I had no intent to violate the law. For me, the test is the 'death test': if I died today, could my heirs require Nissan to pay anything other than my retirement allowance? The answer is an unequivocal 'No'," Ghosn, who holds Brazilian, French and Lebanese nationality, stated.
Ghosn and his defense counsel have maintained that his detention has, thus, been unjustified as he has not inflicted any losses on Nissan.
The once-revered chief, credited with Nissan's meteoric turnaround, went on to underscore his perception of his contribution to Nissan's revival, stating the results of the endeavors by himself and his colleges was self-evident.
"I have dedicated two decades of my life to reviving Nissan and building the Alliance. I worked toward these goals day and night, on the earth and in the air, standing shoulder to shoulder with hardworking Nissan employees around the globe, to create value. The fruits of our labors have been extraordinary," Ghosn, who arrived at the Tokyo District Court on a prison bus handcuffed and with a rope around his waist and plastic sandals on his feet, asserted.
More than a thousand people crowded outside the court, including media workers, Nissan shareholders as well as regular members of the public, haggling over just 14 public seats available in the courtroom through a lottery system.
In his first public appearance after his 50-day detention, Ghosn looked visibly thinner and grayer.
Ghosn's detention is scheduled to end on Jan. 11 and prosecutors by this time must make an ultimate decision as to whether or not to indict him over the multiple charges facing him.
The case, however, has brought into focus Japan's judiciary system and critics have pointed out that suspects can effectively be detained by prosecutors here indefinitely in pursuit of a confession, without being granted access to lawyers or visits from family members.
During the five years through March 2015, Ghosn has been alleged, among other improprieties including breach of trust, to have violated the Financial Instruments and Exchange Act by under-reporting his remuneration by 5 billion yen ($46.06 million) of his total 10 billion yen pay package.
He was subsequently dismissed by Nissan and Mitsubishi Motors Corp., triggering a leadership battle in the Nissan-Renault SA-Mitsubishi Motors Corp. automotive alliance.
In the 10 minutes allocated for Ghosn to state his case to presiding Judge Yuichi Tada, who said his detention was due to concerns he might try to destroy key evidence and was a flight risk, the ex-chairman highlighted Nissan's transformation from being 2 trillion yen in debt in 1999, to cash profits of 1.8 trillion yen and Nissan's asset base tripling during the period.
"We created, directly and indirectly, countless jobs in Japan and reestablished Nissan as a pillar of the Japanese economy," Ghosn continued, before making his final remarks.
In his conclusion, Ghosn was unequivocal in denying all the allegations made against him and maintained that his lengthy internment at the Tokyo Deletion Center was unfair.
"I am innocent of the accusations made against me. I have always acted with integrity and have never been accused of any wrongdoing in my several-decade professional career. I have been wrongly accused and unfairly detained based on meritless and unsubstantiated accusations," Ghosn said.
Ghosn's defense counsel, following his hearing Tuesday, will file a request with the Tokyo District Court to end his detention.