Defiant Ghosn pins hopes on French probes to clear his name
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Auto magnate-turned-fugitive Carlos Ghosn is campaigning to clear his name, and hopes a visit by French investigators to his home in exile in Lebanon will be his first real opportunity to defend himself since the bombshell arrest that transformed him from a visionary to a prisoner overnight.
In an interview with The Associated Press, the embattled former chairman of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance dissected his legal troubles in Japan, France and the Netherlands, detailed how he plotted his brazen escape from Osaka, and reflected on his new reality in crisis-hit Lebanon, where he is stuck for the foreseeable future.
Mending his reputation will be an arduous task. Ghosn was arrested in Japan in November 2018 on accusations of financial misconduct and fled to Lebanon a year later. He now faces multiple legal challenges in France after the Japanese accusations triggered scrutiny of his activities there. Meanwhile, several associates are in jail or on trial in Japan and Turkey, in cases related to his financial activities or escape.
CARLOS GHOSN, STUCK IN BEIRUT, SAYS HE'S READY FOR FRENCH INVESTIGATORS
"There has been a lot of collateral damage . . . but I don’t think I’m responsible for that. The people responsible for that are the people who organized the plot" to bring him down, Ghosn said Tuesday.
Ghosn has denied accusations of underreporting his compensation and misusing company funds, contending he was the victim of a corporate coup linked to a decline in Nissan Motor Co.'s financial performance as the Japanese automaker resisted losing autonomy to French partner Renault.
He said he voluntarily agreed to undergo days of questioning in Beirut next week by French magistrates investigating allegations of financial misconduct in France that led to the seizure of millions of euros of his assets. The outcome could result in preliminary charges being handed to him or in the cases being dropped.
The French investigators are looking into the financing of lavish parties Ghosn threw at the Versailles chateau — complete with period costumes and copious Champagne — as well as 11 million euros in spending on private planes and events arranged by a Dutch holding company, and subsidies to a car dealership in Oman. Ghosn denies any wrongdoing.
"In Japan, you had a Japanese person interrogating me, writing in Japanese and wanting me to sign things in Japanese that I don’t understand," he said. "Now I will be speaking in French, and I’ll have my lawyers present. Of course, I have much more confidence in the French legal system than in the Japanese system."