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Ex-Nissan chairman, 64, arrested over £60m fraud blames ‘plot and treason’

Ex-Nissan chairman, 64, arrested over £60m fraud blames ‘plot and treason’

The embattled former chairman of Nissan has claimed his arrest over nearly £60m of alleged fraud was the result of a ‘plot and treason’ against him by executives at the company. Carlos Ghosn, 64, said he has ‘no doubt’ that Nissan bosses who were unhappy about his plans for closer ties with Renault and Mitsubishi

The embattled former chairman of Nissan has claimed his arrest over nearly £60m of alleged fraud was the result of a ‘plot and treason’ against him by executives at the company.

Carlos Ghosn, 64, said he has ‘no doubt’ that Nissan bosses who were unhappy about his plans for closer ties with Renault and Mitsubishi Motors were behind his arrest in Japan for alleged financial misconduct.

In his first interview since he was arrested on November 19, Mr Ghosn said he had spoken to Nissan chief executive Hiroto Saikawa about the ‘plan to integrate’ the companies in September.

Carlos Ghosn, 64, said he has ‘no doubt’ that Nissan bosses who were unhappy about his plans for closer ties with Renault and Mitsubishi Motors were behind his arrest in Japan for alleged financial misconduct (stock image from April 2018)

Carlos Ghosn, 64, said he has ‘no doubt’ that Nissan bosses who were unhappy about his plans for closer ties with Renault and Mitsubishi Motors were behind his arrest in Japan for alleged financial misconduct (stock image from April 2018)

Carlos Ghosn, 64, said he has ‘no doubt’ that Nissan bosses who were unhappy about his plans for closer ties with Renault and Mitsubishi Motors were behind his arrest in Japan for alleged financial misconduct (stock image from April 2018)

Mr Ghosn, who spearheaded the turnaround of Nissan two decades ago, said he wanted to include Mitsubishi’s chief executive Osamu Masuko in the discussions, but that Mr Saikawa had preferred the talks be ‘one-on-one’.

He said he ultimately wanted to ensure there would be ‘autonomy under one holding company’ once the businesses were more closely integrated.

But this is understood to have ruffled feathers at Nissan – with Mr Ghosn claiming it eventually led to his arrest as opponents sought to block the plan.

Mr Ghosn forged an alliance between Renault and Nissan in 1999, and brought Mitsubishi on board in 2016.

The French-Brazilian businessman also denied accusations that his tenure at Nissan had been a ‘dictatorship’.

‘People translated strong leadership to dictator, to distort reality’ for the ‘purpose of getting rid of me,’ he said.

Local publication the Nikkei Asian Review said it was able to talk to him in person for around 20 minutes.

Japanese authorities originally arrested Mr Ghosn on charges of under-reporting his income by £34ms and using £13m in company money to cover personal losses, though more charges have since been added.

Mr Ghosn forged an alliance between Renault and Nissan in 1999, and brought Mitsubishi on board in 2016 (stock image)

Mr Ghosn forged an alliance between Renault and Nissan in 1999, and brought Mitsubishi on board in 2016 (stock image)

Mr Ghosn forged an alliance between Renault and Nissan in 1999, and brought Mitsubishi on board in 2016 (stock image)

He also is accused of making an £11.6m payment to a Saudi businessman for a letter of credit to help him with the investment losses.

But in the interview, Mr Ghosn denied the accusations and claimed ‘the executive in charge of the region signed [the approval]’.

He said the payment was made from his ‘CEO reserve’ – a pot of money he was free to decide how to spend – and that ‘four officers’ had to sign off the payment to Khaled al-Juffali.

Mr Ghosn, who spearheaded Nissan’s turnaround two decades now, has been held in a Tokyo detention centre since he was arrested.

He has been refused bail twice and deemed a flight risk, despite promising to pay for a private flat, security guards, an ankle bracelet and to surrender his passports so that he can be released during the investigation.

In the interview, he insisted he was not a flight risk.

‘I won’t flee, I will defend [myself],’ he added. ‘All the evidence is with Nissan, and Nissan forbids all employees to talk to me.’

He has denied all the charges against him.

In a letter to Human Rights Watch, Ghosn’s wife Carole has claimed he has received ‘harsh treatment’ at the hands of the authorities since his arrest.

After his arrest he was quickly sacked as chairman of Nissan and Mitsubishi, though he was initially kept on as chairman and chief executive of Renault.

The Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance yesterday said its combined sales rose by 1.4pc to almost 11m units last year – meaning around one in nine of all cars and vans sold across the world were produced by one of the three companies.

It is unclear what the long-term prospect of the alliance will be if Ghosn is no longer at the helm.

A Nissan spokesman said: ‘Nissan’s investigation uncovered substantial and convincing evidence of misconduct, resulting in a unanimous board vote to dismiss Ghosn and [Greg] Kelly as chairman and representative director.

‘Our investigation is ongoing, and its scope continues to broaden. In a recent interview, Nissan’s CEO Hiroto Saikawa refuted the notion of a coup.

‘Nissan remains steadfast in its commitment to the Alliance and will continue to support its partners in the best interests of shareholders, customers and employees.’

 

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