If Carlos Ghosn is tried fairly, he will be vindicated, one of his lawyers assures l’OLJ
The former chairman of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance "was presented as guilty from the very first moment" François Zimeray told l’OLJ.
The saga of what the media has dubbed “the fall of the taikun", or the "the fall of the titan", began on November 19, 2018. On that day, Carlos Ghosn, CEO of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance who holds Brazilian, French and Lebanese nationality, was arrested as he disembarked from his private jet at Tokyo airport. Since his arrest, a successive series of charges and legal cases have been brought against him. Ghosn was released on a $ 9 million bail on March 6, 2019 after serving 108 days at Kosuge Detention Center (north of Tokyo), only to be re-arrested on April 4. He was later released from jail on April 25 after posting a multimillion-dollar bond for the second time in two months. Already facing three charges for underreporting his pay and on aggravated breach of trust, the former chairman was indicted for allegedly misappropriating Nissan company money.
“Carlos Ghosn was presented as guilty from the very first moment” said François Zimeray, the Ghosn family’s French lawyer, in an interview with L’Orient- Le Jour.
Zimeray specifically denounced Ghosn’s April 4 arrest “on additional legally dubious charges”, saying “he was previously detained for more than 100 days under unfair, cruel, and unjust conditions in an effort to coerce a confession before ultimately being released on strict bail conditions, with which he has scrupulously complied.”
“The conditions under which he was re-arrested, at dawn, with twenty agents rushing in[to] his home, [and] the media informed ahead of the re-arrest, clearly show a desire to humiliate him” Zimeray added.
Upon his re-arrest, 65-year-old Ghosn was questioned about money transfers made by Nissan to an auto dealer in Oman. In total, Ghosn allegedly used $5 million of the transferred funds for personal enrichment, according to the Japanese prosecutor’s office.
The former Renault-Nissan boss is suspected of having used a Lebanese company, Good Faith Investments, to divert some of the money paid by Nissan to Suhail Bahwan Automobile, the Renault-Nissan dealership in the Sultanate of Oman, between 2012 and 2018. According to excerpts from Nissan's internal investigation as reported by news agencies, a portion of these funds ended up in the accounts of a company called Beauty Yachts headed by Ghosn's wife, Carole Ghosn, and registered in the British Virgin Islands.
Based on sources close to the case cited by AFP, the allegedly misappropriated sum was deposited through a company in Lebanon into a fund called Shogun Investments LLC controlled by his son Anthony in the United States.
Asked to comment on these new accusations, Zimeray simply responded “Mr. Ghosn has said that he is innocent of all the charges held against him. He is adamant, he is wrongly accused and unfairly detained on unfounded charges. We will therefore concentrate our efforts for Mr. Ghosn to have a fair trial.”
In a video recorded before his second arrest and broadcast a few days later, Mr. Ghosn stated that he was innocent of all charges brought against him, claiming to be a victim of "a plot, conspiracy and treason".
“Emails reveal the true story (...). Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry was working with Nissan executives to block the formal merger of Nissan and Renault favored by Carlos and to preserve Nissan’s autonomy at all costs”, Carole Ghosn claimed in a column published in mid-April in the Washington Post, adding “What should have been settled in the Nissan boardroom has been turned into a criminal affair.”
Last week, The Nikkei newspaper reported that Nissan Motor Co. will reject a management integration proposal from their French partner Renault and will call for an equal capital relationship.
Nissan's management feels that the Japanese company has not been treated as Renault’s equal under existing capital ties, and that a merger would make this inequality permanent, the Nikkei quoted sources as saying.
In its proposal, Renault has argued that integration would maximize synergies within the French-Japanese alliance, according to the Nikkei.
Asked about a possible “plot” by high ranking Nissan officials, Zimeray replied that media outlets had reported that Ghosn’s plan to merge Renault and Nissan before his arrest was “a deal that Nissan and the Japanese government were looking for ways to block.”
Moreover, the lawyer said “it has been reported that Mr. Ghosn reflected on the Nissan dismal performance, recent profit warnings and emissions scandals.”
“Knowing that they were in danger of losing their jobs because of Nissan's declining performance, he believes that some Nissan executives collaborated to prepare a case against him, under the cover of an internal investigation”, Zimeray remarked.
In his video, Ghosn named those who, according to him, were behind the "plot", but his lawyers decided to edit the information out "due to legal repercussions" in case the identities of the people in question were made public.
“Mr. Ghosn is committed to revealing the truth. We are confident that if tried fairly, he will be vindicated”, Zimeray told l’OLJ.
Zimeray, who was a Human Rights Ambassador under former French President Nicolas Sarkozy from 2008 to 2013, and then became the Ambassador of France to Denmark, said that, for him, this case “is not only a fight for one man, but a fight to defend universal principles: the right to the presumption of innocence, the right to a fair trial, the right for dignity in all circumstances.”
“The detention of Mr. Carlos Ghosn, which appears neither necessary nor reasonable and which occurs under harsh conditions, illustrates the Japanese hostage justice system for the purpose of obtaining forced confessions,” Zimeray noted. He further revealed that “a petition has been initiated by renowned figures of the legal world, academics and practitioners in Japan to end this hostage justice system.”
In March, the Ghosn family, represented by Zimeray, decided to appeal to the United Nations, claiming that Ghosn’s "fundamental rights" were not respected.
According to Zimeray, Mr. Ghosn was “interrogated for hours each day without the presence of his attorneys” during his detention. The interrogations used to go until 10:00pm, and his access to counsel was limited, according to Zimeray. He was “confined to an unheated cell with three meals of mainly rice” and “given 30 minutes to exercise daily excluding weekends and bank holidays”. His visits were “limited to 15 minutes of conversation with the presence of a guard and separated from him by a glass window”.
He further added that while in detention, Ghosn was “denied his medication and did not receive appropriate medical care for his chronic health issues”, warning that these health issues were “exacerbated by the deliberately harsh conditions of his detention”.
Carlos Ghosn suffers from high cholesterol levels and the treatment he is following has caused both chronic kidney failure and rhabdomyolysis, a disease that causes muscle cells to break down, his lawyers said in a document seen by Reuters.
(This article was originally published in frenc in L'Orient-Le Jour on the 25th of April. The interview was done before Ghosn was freed and the article has been consequently slightly modified in its english version?)