Former Renault/Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn Speaks After Escape From Japan

The next saga in the incredible story of auto titan Carlos Ghosn and his escape from Japan launched today. His tell-all press conference was two hours of facts, figures, and hyperbole. Ghosn was making his case in the court of public opinion. Ghosn’s main vindictive was at Japan’s criminal justice system and individuals within Nissan and Japan government.

You can read more about Ghosn’s background and escape.

“I was brutally taken from my world as I knew it,” Ghosn said at a packed press conference.  “I was ripped from my family, my friends, from my communities, and from Renault, Nissan, and Mitsubishi.”

Ghosn was arrested in Japan for financial improprieties in November 2018. He was charged with more allegations of raiding corporate coffers for personal gain in April 2019. For months he was locked in a prison cell. He was eventually stripped from his CEO responsibilities at all three automobile companies as still more accusations came forth.

TOPSHOT – Former Nissan Chairman Carlos Ghosn (C) and his wife Carole (back center L) are surrounded by members of the press as they arrive at their residence in Tokyo on April 3, 2019. – Tokyo prosecutors are considering pressing a fresh charge against Carlos Ghosn, local media said on April 3 as the former Nissan boss announced on Twitter he would be giving his side of the story. (Photo by CHARLY TRIBALLEAU / AFP) (Photo credit should read CHARLY TRIBALLEAU/AFP via Getty Images)

Carlos Ghosn gave out an array of examples and explanations

Ghosn laid out his point-by-point explanations and rebuttals for over an hour. After that, he took questions by the press in Beirut. He grew up in Lebanon and fled there as it has no extradition arrangements with outside countries involving Lebanese citizens. So admired is he there is a postage stamp to honor his business achievements.

Carlos Ghosn press conference 1-8-2020

His explanation for why he was arrested was that the Japanese government and Nissan executives conspired to oust him by any means possible. This would then stop further integration of Nissan and Mitsubishi with Renault. And, he named names.

Nissan Chief Executive Officer Hiroto Saikawa, Hitoshi Kawaguchi, and Masakazu Toyoda were all accused of being part of the plot. Ghosn’s successor Saikawa was indicted for overcompensation violations a few months after Ghosn’s arrest.

If convicted the former Renault/Nissan Mistubishi CEO faces long Japan imprisonment.

“I am here to expose a system of justice that violates the most basic principles of humanity,” he told the assembled media. “These accusations are untrue and I should never have been arrested.” He said he would stand trial in any country he believed he would receive a fair trial, but not in Japan. 

Nissan did an internal investigation leading up to Ghosn’s arrest. He accused the US law firm Nissan hired with leaking false information and withholding favorable information. While not declaring who within the Japanese government was involved, he did say Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was not part of the plot. 

“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.

The Japanese legal system is quite different from the US. Prosecutors enjoy an almost 100% conviction rate. Part of the terms for bail was he could have only restricted contact with his wife and family only if given permission.

Nissan: Incontrovertible evidence of misconduct

Chairman and CEO of Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Carlos Ghosn presents the Renault K-ZE for the Chinese market during a world premiere as part of a Renault “electric evening” on October 1, 2018, on the eve of the first press day of the Paris Motor Show. (Photo by ERIC PIERMONT / AFP) (Photo credit should read ERIC PIERMONT/AFP via Getty Images)

For its part, Nissan says there is “incontrovertible evidence of misconduct” by Ghosn. It said it would take appropriate legal action against Ghosn. Japan has already issued an arrest warrant for Ghosn’s wife Carole. It says she gave false testimony to the courts. Nissan has spent over $200 million for what it saw as misappropriation of a few million dollars.

Carlos Ghosn was selected by Renault in 1999 to bring back Nissan from near bankruptcy. He accomplished that goal in less than three years. Ghosn became somewhat of a Japanese national hero and ascended to the CEO position for both Renault and Nissan. Mistubishi was also acquired under similar circumstances in 2016.

His ultimate goal has been to tighten the alliance between the companies partially by removing executives. Renault owns a 43% stake in Nissan. Nissan wanted to lessen the structure of the alliance to give itself more autonomy.

Since his arrest, Renault, Nissan, and Mitsubishi have recorded large drops in profits. The rest of the industry has prospered.