World

Nissan’s Ghosn appears before Tokyo court, claims innocence

TOKYO : Ousted Nissan Motor Co Chairman Carlos Ghosn declared his innocence in his first public appearance since his arrest in November, telling a Tokyo court yesterday that he was wrongly accused of financial misconduct.

"I have been wrongly accused and unfairly detained based on meritless and unsubstantiated accusations," Ghosn told the Tokyo District Court. He spoke clearly, though he looked thinner with sunken cheeks and his dark hair showing grey roots.

"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 the court as Ghosn - credited with rescuing Nissan from near-bankruptcy two decades ago - entered in handcuffs and a rope around his waist, led by two guards.

The hearing received top billing on TV news updates and 1,122 people had lined up for 14 court seats assigned by lottery.

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

Ghosn used the opportunity to deny accusations against him, a move that could prove risky if prosecutors use it to build their case.

The 64-year-old executive has been formally charged with under-reporting his income.

He has also been arrested, but not yet indicted, on allegations of aggravated breach of trust in shifting personal investment losses worth 1.85 billion yen (S$23 million) to the carmaker.

WHISTLEBLOWER

Nissan, which ousted Ghosn as chairman, reiterated that its investigation prompted by a whistleblower had uncovered "substantial and convincing evidence of misconduct".

The case has rattled Nissan's alliance with French automaker Renault SA, where Ghosn remains chairman and chief executive. He had been pushing for a deeper tie-up, including a full merger, despite strong reservations at Nissan.- REUTERS

WORLD