Ghosn claims innocence in first court appearance

January 08, 2019 15:22
A court sketch shows ousted Nissan Motor chairman Carlos Ghosn during an open hearing at a Tokyo court on Tuesday. Credit: Kyodo via Reuters

Ousted Nissan Motor chairman Carlos Ghosn declared his innocence in his first public appearance since his arrest in November, telling a Tokyo court on Tuesday that he was wrongly accused of financial misconduct, Reuters reports.

"I have been wrongly accused and unfairly detained based on meritless and unsubstantiated accusations,” Ghosn was quoted as saying in the Tokyo District Court. 

"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,” Ghosn said.

Journalists and television crews thronged outside the court as Ghosn entered in handcuffs and a rope around his waist, led in by two guards.

The court hearing, requested by Ghosn’s lawyers, was held to explain the reasons for his prolonged detention since his Nov. 19 arrest rather than to argue merits of the case.

Presiding Judge Yuichi Tada said the detention was due to flight risk and possibility he could conceal evidence.

Ghosn, 64, used the opportunity to deny accusations against him of financial wrongdoing and under-reporting his income.

The once-feted executive had been arrested, but not yet indicted, on allegations of aggravated breach of trust in shifting personal investment losses worth 1.85 billion yen (US$17 million) to the carmaker.

“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,” Ghosn said.

Regarding allegations that he transferred losses to Nissan, Ghosn said he had asked the company to temporarily take on collateral for his foreign exchange contracts. He said he did this to avoid the only other choice he had, which was to resign and use his retirement allowance for collateral.

“My moral commitment to Nissan would not allow me to step down during that crucial time,” said Ghosn. “A captain doesn’t jump ship in the middle of a storm.”

Ghosn said the contracts were transferred back to him and that Nissan did not incur any loss.

Ghosn is also accused of making US$14.7 million in payments to Saudi businessman Khaled Al-Juffali using Nissan funds in exchange for arranging a letter of credit to help with his investment losses.

Ghosn said that Juffali’s company was compensated for “critical services that substantially benefited Nissan”, including soliciting financing and resolving a business dispute.

The Khaled Juffali Company also issued a statement on Tuesday saying it had received the payments for legitimate business purposes.

Nissan, which has ousted Ghosn as chairman, reiterated that its internal investigation prompted by a whistleblower had uncovered “substantial and convincing evidence of misconduct” and that its investigation was ongoing and expanding in scope.

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