In his first public statement since he fled to Lebanon, former Renault and Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn claimed on Wednesday that Japanese carmaker Nissan “colluded” with Japanese prosecutors who he said were aided by “petty, vindictive and lawless individuals.”
Ghosn escaped from Tokyo while on bail on December 29 to flee what he said was Japan’s “rigged” justice system. He didn’t provide details of how he managed to get out of Japan and fly to Lebanon, but the former chairman of the alliance between French carmaker Renault and Japan’s Nissan and Mitsubishi said he was innocent of all charges, and is able to prove it now that he’s out of Japan.
“I left Japan because I wanted justice … if I don’t get it in Japan, I’m going to get it somewhere else,” he said at a news conference held in Beirut; he has Lebanese, French and Brazilian citizenships.
Ghosn was arrested in November 2018 on charges of financial misconduct while at the helm of the company — charges he claimed on Wednesday were “political” — pointing to a power-play over control of the auto alliance between France and Japan.
Renault holds a 43 percent voting stake in Nissan, while Nissan has a 15 percent stake in Renault, but no voting rights, a situation that “left big bitterness with our friends in Japan — not only with management of Nissan, but also with the government,” Ghosn said.
Ghosn also said that he had been blamed for creating an “irreversible alliance” between the carmakers, but denied that he wanted them to merge into a single entity.
He accused his critics of trying to undermine the alliance by attacking him, seeing that “the only way to get rid of the influence of Renault on Nissan is to get rid of me,” Ghosn argued, adding that they were right because the two carmakers have loosened ties since his arrest. “Frankly, there is no more alliance,” he said.
The former chief highlighted the sluggish post-arrest performance of Nissan, Renault and Mitsubishi at a time when the automotive industry’s market value has grown 12 percent. He also pointed to the collapse of talks between the alliance and Fiat Chrysler. “It’s unbelievable. How can you lose this huge opportunity to become the dominant player in this industry?”
Ghosn said that the alliance of carmakers had lost sight of their core tasks. “They said we want to turn the Ghosn page — well, they’ve been very successful,” he said. “They turned the Ghosn page because there is no more growth, there is no more increase of profit, there is no more strategic initiatives, there’s no more technology and there is no more alliance.”
In a reaction to the press conference, Japanese Justice Minister Masako Mori said that Japan “will take all available measures so that Japanese criminal proceedings can be properly served.”
Ghosn’s departure from Japan while on bail “could constitute a crime” and “would not be condoned under any nation’s system,” Mori said. She also called Ghosn’s criticism of Japan’s justice system “absolutely intolerable,” adding that “persistent efforts” by its police, prosecutors and judges have made it “the safest country in the world.”