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Ghosn decries ‘plot’ in video statement

Reuters

Junichiro Hironaka, chief lawyer of the former Nissan Motor Co. Chairman Carlos Ghosn, walks in front of a screen showing Ghosn’s video statement during a news conference at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan in Tokyo on Tuesday.

ReutersTOKYO (Reuters) — Ousted Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn said he was innocent and slammed former colleagues whom he accused of backstabbing and conspiring against him, in a prerecorded video that marked his first public address since his initial arrest last year. Prosecutors took the highly unusual step of rearresting Ghosn last week on fresh allegations that he used company funds to enrich himself to the tune of $5 million. The once-feted executive had been out on $9 million bail for 30 days, during which he recorded the video screened by his lawyers on Tuesday.

In the video, shown to reporters in Tokyo, the former Nissan Motor Co. chairman said he was the victim of selfish rivals bent on derailing a closer alliance between the Japanese automaker and French partner Renault SA.

Ghosn called out some individuals by name in the video but those references were removed due to legal concerns, his lead lawyer Junichiro Hironaka told reporters.

The video — together with Hironaka’s comments alleging harsh treatment by Tokyo prosecutors against Ghosn and his wife, Carole — cast Ghosn as the victim of both internal rivals and the Japanese judicial system.

“This is a conspiracy ... this is not about greed or dictatorship, this is about a plot, this about a conspiracy, this is about a backstabbing,” Ghosn said in the video.

He was wearing a dark jacket and a white shirt. His hands were folded in front of him as he looked into the camera and spoke in a clipped, matter-of-fact manner. His hair appeared to be greyer and his face thinner than before last year’s arrest.

The conspiracy, he said, was borne out of fear that he would bring Nissan closer to its partner and top shareholder, Renault.

“There was fear that the next step of the alliance in terms of convergence and in terms of moving towards a merger, would in a certain way threaten some people or eventually threaten the autonomy of Nissan,” he said.

Hironaka told the briefing that prosecutors were acting in a “cruel way” and putting him under intense physical and mental pressure to get a confession.

Prosecutors were not immediately available for comment.

Hironaka has previously criticized the move by prosecutors to confiscate Ghosn’s belongings, including his mobile phone and trial documents, along with the mobile phones and Lebanese passport of his wife, Carole, who was present when prosecutors entered their home early in the morning last Thursday.

The lawyer said on Tuesday that Ghosn’s wife, who left Japan last week, did so out of concern for her own safety, adding she intended to protest the case to the French government.

However, France’s finance minister said on Tuesday that political interventions might not be the best way to help Ghosn, raising some questions about how much pressure Paris was willing to put on Tokyo over the issue.

The case has rocked the global auto industry and also shone a harsh light on Japan’s judicial system.

Under Japanese law, prosecutors are able to hold suspects for up to 22 days without charge and interrogate them without their lawyers present.

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