Carlos Ghosn Likens Arrest in Japan to Pearl Harbor Attack in Furious Press Conference
The former Nissan and Renault CEO has a lot on his mind.
After an elaborate escape from Japan to Lebanon, ex-Nissan and Renault CEO Carlos Ghosn made his first public appearance in months on Wednesday at a raging, sometimes rambling press conference in Beirut on Wednesday. Standing before the reporters from around the globe, Ghosn accused Nissan executives and Japanese government officials of conspiring to take him down with falsified evidence and intimidation tactics. He also likened his situation to the WWII attack on Pearl Harbor—that pretty much says it all about how he views his plight.
Ghosn was first arrested in November 2018 under suspicion of financial crimes at Nissan that included allegedly underreporting his compensation, transferring personal investment losses onto Nissan's books, and charging other questionable expenses to the company. He spent all of 2019 either in jail or under strict house arrest, mostly unable to see his family or use the internet. Wednesday's press conference was his first opportunity in over a year to address media unconditionally, and the 65-year-old wasted no time in saying he'd been framed by the "rigged Japanese justice system," later adding that he didn't want to die in a Japanese prison.
The full two hour and twenty-five minute press conference can be viewed below:
"My unimaginable ordeal over the past 14 months was the result of an orchestrated campaign spearheaded by a handful of unscrupulous, vindictive individuals at Nissan and at the Latham & Watkins law firm, with the support of the Tokyo prosecutor's office," Ghosn said. He further alleges that a trio of ambitious, "backstabbing" Nissan executives orchestrated the fabrication of evidence against him and withheld information that would clear his name as part of an alleged "character assassination." He named successive (and since-ousted) Nissan CEO Hiroto Saikawa, former Executive Vice President Hitoshi Kawaguchi, and current Outside Director Masakazu Toyoda as chief conspirators. This trio, he alleges, sought to block a merger between Renault and Nissan.
"I was ready to retire before June 2018... I unfortunately accepted this offer to continue to integrate the two companies," Ghosn said. "Some of my Japanese friends thought that the only way to get rid of the influence of Renault on Nissan, was to get rid of me."
Despite the charges leveled against Ghosn in Japan, an ongoing investigation into Ghosn by French officials, and $1 million in fines to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission—the bane of brash auto executives—for an undisclosed $140 million in compensation, Ghosn insists on his innocence.
"The charges against me are baseless. Why have they extended the investigation timeline, why have they rearrested me? Why were they so intent on preventing me from talking and setting out my facts? Why have they spent 14 months trying to break my spirit, barring any contact with my wife?"
Investigators had limited Ghosn's contact with his family during the investigation to allegedly prevent him from colluding with them. Nevertheless, Tokyo prosecutors suspect Ghosn's wife Carole lied under oath and issued a warrant for her arrest on Tuesday. That same day, Nissan declared that it had "incontrovertible evidence of various acts of misconduct" on Ghosn's part, and declared it'd pursue "appropriate legal action" against its former CEO.
"I was facing a system where the conviction rate is 99.4 percent, and I believe this number is far higher for foreigners [...] I am innocent of all the charges. I left Japan because I wanted justice. It is the only way to reestablish my reputation. If I don't get it in Japan, I will get it somewhere else," added Ghosn. "I did not escape justice, I fled injustice."
Ghosn offered to appear in court "in any country where I believe I can receive a fair trial." He's currently living in a mansion in Beirut, Lebanon, one reportedly paid for by Nissan, which has unsuccessfully attempted to have the Ghosn family evicted from the property.
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