By Sean McLain and Nick Kostov
This article is being republished as part of our daily
reproduction of WSJ.com articles that also appeared in the U.S.
print edition of The Wall Street Journal (January 9, 2020).
BEIRUT -- Carlos Ghosn -- gesticulating wildly, snapping his
fingers and occasionally swearing during his first public
appearance since skipping bail in Japan -- defended himself against
charges of financial crimes and accused prosecutors and former
colleagues of orchestrating his downfall.
During a two-hour-plus news conference Wednesday, he also
critiqued the recent performance of Nissan Motor Co. and Renault
SA, the two companies he had linked in an auto-making alliance.
"Frankly, there is no more alliance," Mr. Ghosn said.
What the former auto executive didn't say was anything about how
he escaped Japan, where he was awaiting trial following his arrest
in November 2018. Mr. Ghosn has denied the charges against him and
had said he would defend himself in Japanese court. Instead, he
He has said he arranged his exit from Japan by himself. The Wall
Street Journal detailed an operation that drew on a cast of
characters and months of planning.
On Wednesday, he said he made the decision to run when he
realized he could be tied up in the Japanese legal system for years
"Every day, I didn't know whether I would see the people I love
again. It was as if I'd died," he said of his time in jail. After
posting bail, he was still severely restricted in whom he could
see. "When I saw that I'd escaped, it was as if, somehow, I was
coming back to life," he said, with his wife, Carole Ghosn, looking
Legal officials in Japan responded Wednesday that Mr. Ghosn has
only himself to blame for his troubles and called his criticism of
Japanese justice wrongheaded. Tokyo's deputy chief prosecutor,
Takahiro Saito, said Mr. Ghosn's claims at the Beirut news
conference "failed to justify his acts." The former Nissan chief
"flagrantly disregarded Japanese law to avoid the consequences of
the crimes he committed," Mr. Saito said.
At times Wednesday, Mr. Ghosn seemed to slip back into his
persona of accomplished auto leader, with a reputation that made
him a sought-after and widely recognized commentator on his
industry. At other moments, though, he struggled to contain his
emotions, angrily accusing Japanese prosecutors of pushing him to
confess and calling former associates at Nissan "unscrupulous" and
He called out many of them, including former Nissan Chief
Executive Hiroto Saikawa and board member Masakazu Toyoda, as
having played a role in a coup to topple him.
A secret investigation by a small group of Nissan executives
resulted in his arrest. The Japanese auto maker has said the sole
reason for Mr. Ghosn's arrest and dismissal was his misconduct.
Messrs. Saikawa and Toyoda couldn't be reached for comment
Nissan, in a statement released ahead of the press conference,
said it found "numerous acts of misconduct" and would "take
appropriate legal action to hold [Mr. Ghosn] accountable for the
harm that his misconduct has caused to Nissan."
Dressed in a dark suit and red tie, Mr. Ghosn answered questions
in Arabic, English, French and Portuguese during the conference.
The 65-year-old former auto executive was born in Brazil and raised
in Lebanon, and later made a name for himself in business in
The press conference was his first detailed public account of
his case since April, when out on bail in Tokyo he delivered a
more-choreographed presentation of his defense. It was also almost
a year to the date from his first public appearance after being
arrested. At a Japanese court hearing at the time, Mr. Ghosn, gaunt
after his confinement, made a brief statement responding to the
On Wednesday, he seemed eager to catch up after 14 months of
He didn't change the broad outline of his defense. Mr. Ghosn is
accused of not disclosing deferred compensation from Nissan in the
tens of millions of dollars. He has said the future pay was
hypothetical and there was no binding contract.
He is also accused of diverting Nissan money for his own
benefit, which he has also denied. On Wednesday, he walked
reporters through a series of detailed explanations for money that
he is accused of misusing.
He also unleashed a fusillade of new accusations at specific
prosecutors and Nissan executives. He attempted to take on his
accusers point-by-point, making rebuttals that involved the
minutiae of the Middle Eastern auto market and images of contracts
signed by Nissan executives.
Documents he showed on a projection screen were difficult to
make out in the crowded room. Mr. Ghosn pointed at portions of
contracts that were illegible from the rear of the room, saying
they showed the Nissan executives were aware of actions he is
accused to have done in secret. Mr. Ghosn promised he would make
the documents available to reporters.
Since its former boss's arrest, Nissan has been buffeted by the
fallout. Sales and profit continue to slump, infighting has led to
the departure of several executives, including its CEO, and the
company's 20-year-old partnership with Renault is on the rocks.
Both auto makers' share prices have suffered sharply since late
Mr. Ghosn said that before the arrest, he was close to clinching
a deal to bring Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV into the alliance,
which also includes Mitsubishi Motors Corp. While those discussions
were known, he suggested they were much further along than commonly
believed. Instead, Fiat Chrysler last year agreed to merge with
Renault's French rival, Peugeot maker PSA Group.
"The alliance missed the unmissable," he said. A spokesperson
for Fiat Chrysler declined to comment.
Write to Sean McLain at firstname.lastname@example.org and Nick Kostov at
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