Former Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn has appeared in court for the first time since his shock arrest in Japan in November last year. He is accused of financial misconduct, including under-reporting his pay. Mr Ghosn, who was led into court in handcuffs with a rope around his waist, said in a prepared statement that he had been “wrongly accused and unfairly detained”.
Mr Ghosn, a towering figure of the car industry, also looked visibly thinner. The 64-year-old executive is accused of moving personal investment losses worth 1.85bn yen (£13.3m; $17m) racked up on foreign exchange dealings to Nissan. 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 said if he had not been able to do this, he would have had to resign and use his retirement allowance as collateral instead. Mr Ghosn is also accused of making $14.7m in payments to Saudi businessman Khaled al-Juffali, using Nissan funds in exchange for arranging a letter of credit to help with his investment losses.
He told the Tokyo District court: “I have been wrongly accused and unfairly detained, based on meritless and unsubstantiated accusations.”
The 64-year-old said he never received any compensation from Nissan that was not disclosed. Mr Ghosn said he had “never been accused of any wrongdoing” and had dedicated two decades to “reviving Nissan”. Speaking at a news conference in Tokyo later in the day, Mr Ghosn’s lawyer said there was no reason to detain him and called on prosecutors to carry out a more cautious and thorough investigation, Reuters reported. His initial arrest nearly two months ago shocked the industry and his lengthy detention has drawn some criticism. But a judge said Mr Ghosn’s detention was justified to prevent possible evidence-tampering and the risk that he might flee, according to reports.
Mr Ghosn, who was hailed as the man who saved Nissan by building alliance with Renault, has been accused of “significant acts of misconduct”, including under-reporting his pay package and personal use of company assets. He was first arrested on 19 November for understating his pay and rearrested twice in December. His most recent arrest involved fresh allegations of breach of trust.
His current detention period runs until 11 January. To keep him any longer, they would have to rearrest him on a separate allegation. If found guilty of the financial misconduct charges, Mr Ghosn faces up to 10 years in prison as well as a fine of up to 700m yen ($6.4m; £5m), according to Japanese regulators.