The Yomiuri Shimbun Former Nissan Motor Co. Chairman Carlos Ghosn made a public appearance on Tuesday, his first in the 50 days since his arrest, which sent shock waves around the world.
During the proceedings to disclose the grounds for detention held at the Tokyo District Court on Tuesday, Ghosn — who had been praised as a charismatic business leader — declared his innocence, making it clear he would battle the prosecutors.
At 10:30 a.m., Ghosn walked into the courtroom in an unhurried manner. Wearing a dark suit, he held his head high and his chest out. He looked around the gallery immediately after sitting down, but soon faced the front.
Ghosn has been detained in the Tokyo Detention House in the Kosuge district since he was arrested on Nov. 19 by the special investigation squad of the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office. Overseas media have reported that he has lost about nine kilograms since he was arrested, and his cheeks did look more sunken at the hearing.
The proceeding was conducted in Japanese with English interpretation.
Asked his name by Judge Yuichi Tada, Ghosn answered clearly, “Carlos Ghosn Bichara.” When Tada inquired whether his occupation was a company executive, he replied “yes” in English.
Ghosn listened calmly as Tada explained the details of the allegations against him and the reason for his detention. During the statement of opinion, Ghosn said in English, “First, let me say that I have a genuine love and appreciation for Nissan.”
He then flatly denied the allegations against him, saying, “I have acted honorably, legally, and with the knowledge and approval of the appropriate executives inside the company.” Ghosn concluded his statement by saying, “I have been wrongly accused and unfairly detained based on meritless and unsubstantiated accusations.”
On the morning, 1,122 people lined up in front of the district court for 14 gallery seats, or about 80 times the number available.
According to lawyer Motonari Otsuru, Ghosn’s defense counsel, Otsuru met Ghosn at the end of last year and suggested he go through the proceeding to disclose the grounds for his detention in open court. Ghosn said he wanted to make use of such a system if he could, and wanted judges to listen to his opinion.
The proceeding itself will not end Ghosn’s detention, so the defense was initially reluctant to go through with the hearing, which they believe is simply a performance. In fact, they did not request it when Ghosn was arrested on suspicion of understating his remuneration in the company’s annual securities reports.
However, the defense did ask for the hearing this time because Ghosn has denied one of the two allegations for aggravated breach of trust — the allegation that he shifted to Nissan an appraisal loss worth about ¥1.85 billion ($16.98 million) from his personal investments. The defense insists that the case does not constitute a breach of trust based on an agreement that Ghosn’s act would not cause a loss to the company.
As a basis for this claim, Otsuru said that during the investigative process, minutes from a Nissan board meeting were found that included a statement “No cost for the company.”
Otsuru said, “We decided to ask the court to thoroughly study again whether there are any suspicions to justify Ghosn being detained.”
Regarding the appraisal loss, Ghosn also has been suspected of providing an acquaintance in Saudi Arabia with about ¥1.6 billion in return for the acquaintance’s credit guarantee of about ¥3 billion. Ghosn has said the money was paid for the acquaintance’s efforts to help resolve problems and lobbying activities for the Saudi government.
Prosecutors were cool toward the defense’s request to disclose the grounds for Ghosn’s detention, with a senior prosecutor quoted as saying, “I think they’re trying to reduce the time spent on the investigation and avoid his being grilled.”Speech