Published: Wed, January 09, 2019
Business | By Eloise Houston

Ghosn appears in court, denies shifting personal losses to Nissan:The Asahi Shimbun

Ghosn appears in court, denies shifting personal losses to Nissan:The Asahi Shimbun

This is the first time since he was arrested seven weeks ago that he has been allowed to speak to the court.

In a statement prepared for the hearing and issued by a spokesperson, Ghosn was expected to conclude his remarks by saying: "Your Honour, I am innocent of the accusations made against me".

Or at least that's what he said on Monday in his first statement to the public since his arrest by Japanese authorities in 2018 in connection with charges of misreported income. Local media have said Ghosn denies the allegations.

Mr Ghosn says he did ask the company to take on collateral temporarily for his foreign exchange contracts, but that it did not lose any money through this move.

He was handcuffed with a rope around his waist.

"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 - with the sole goal of supporting and strengthening Nissan, and helping to restore its place as one of Japan's finest and most respected companies".

"My moral commitment to Nissan would not allow me to step down during that crucial time", said Ghosn.

The contract was transferred back to the management firm with a Saudi acquaintance of Ghosn guaranteeing credit.

Khaled Juffali Company issued a statement "to help set the record straight", saying the $14.7 million U.S. in payments over four years from Nissan "were for legitimate business purposes in order to support and promote Nissan's business strategy in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and included reimbursement for business expenses".

Ghosn has not been formally charged over the latter two allegations and is preparing to defend himself "vigorously" in court, according to his son Anthony in an interview with French weekly Journal du Dimanche.

Nissan spokesman Nicholas Maxfield said an investigation by the company that found "substantial and convincing evidence of misconduct" prompted prosecutors to act.

Draft proposals for post-retirement compensation were reviewed by internal and external lawyers, showing he had no intent to break the law, according to the statement.

He added: "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".

His lengthy stay in a tiny, freezing cell at the Tokyo detention centre has drawn global criticism of Japan's "hostage justice", which allows prosecutors to re-arrest suspects several times over different allegations and to question them for up to eight hours a day without a lawyer present. Prosecutors have said that Ghosn, a Brazilian-born Frenchman of Lebanese ancestry, is a flight risk.

The case has rattled Nissan's alliance with French automaker Renault, where Ghosn still remains chairman and chief executive. It also raised questions about the future of Renault-Nissan alliance he had led and protected for many years.

Ghosn, former Nissan chairman, said at the Tokyo District Court that the allegations against him are groundless.

More than 1,000 people queued for a chance to sit in one of the 14 seats available in the court which were assigned by lottery.

From the moment on November 19 that prosecutors stormed his private jet at a Tokyo airport, the twists and turns of the case have gripped Japan and the business world.

He was sacked as chairman of Nissan - which has yet to appoint a permanent replacement - soon after his arrest but kept on as head of Renault. Kelly, who suffers from spinal stenosis, was later released on bail and is being treated at a Japanese hospital.

He has now been charged with those accusations, and prosecutors have leveled other allegations involving further under-reporting of his pay and a complex scheme in which he allegedly tried to transfer losses to Nissan and used company funds to compensate a business contact who put up collateral.

Formal charges on those allegations have not been filed.

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