Carlos Ghosn, the once high-flying head of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance, is set to give his first news conference today since his arrest on financial corruption charges in November 2018.
The long-time executive made a daring escape from Japan shortly before the New Year, apparently using false identities to get from Japan to Turkey and then continue on to Lebanon, his family’s ancestral home, where he is expected to be protected from demands for his extradition. But, complicating matters, Japanese prosecutors on Wednesday filed a warrant for the arrest of Ghosn’s wife, Carole.
Ghosn spent months in a small, unheated Tokyo jail cell, calling off several scheduled appearances, but did issue a video statement last April accusing executives at Nissan of staging a “coup” to prevent the carmaker from coming under greater control by its French partner Renault. This week, as he prepared for his planned news conference in Lebanon, Ghosn issued a statement claiming his arrest was “a gross perversion of the truth,” and the result of a “flawed (and) biased internal investigation at Nissan.
The former executive is expected to pull few punches when he finally meets with reporters on Wednesday. Among other things, he has long indicated that he wants to name those he believes were responsible for having him arrested. Few would be surprised if that list included Hiroto Saikawa, a one-time protégé who served as Nissan CEO until resigning late last year.
Saikawa ordered the internal probe that led to Ghosn’s arrest, initially on charges of concealing millions of dollars in pay. Ironically, the probe later found that Saikawa had himself received unreported compensation, leading to his own decision to leave the company.
Since November 2018, however, Japanese prosecutors have leveled a number of additional charges, among other things accusing Ghosn of diverting Nissan funds for his own personal use.
They used additional allegations to repeatedly extend the executive’s stay in the Tokyo Detention Center, at one point re-arresting Ghosn after he had been released on bail. Ghosn was eventually freed on almost $13 million in bail but he subsequently maintained a low-profile presence, among other things calling off plans to attend the Nissan annual shareholders meeting
Since then, he reportedly spent much of his time meeting with his legal team to prepare for trial. He was able to see his children but could not meet with his wife, prosecutors alleging they might conspire to cover up evidence.
On Tuesday, authorities in Japan obtained a warrant for Carole Ghosn’s arrest. There has been suspicion that she might have assisted in her husband’s escape, but the arrest warrant centers around prosecutors’ claims that she gave false testimony during a court appearance in April of last year.
For his part, Carlos Ghosn currently can stay within Lebanon, where he is a citizen, without worrying about being arrested again. The country bars extradition of its citizens. It is unclear if his wife faces the same protections.
Since the one-time executive’s mysterious escape last month questions have been swirling about how he billed off his disappearing act. Some reports have claimed he was able to squeeze into a box at his Tokyo home and then loaded on a cargo plane leaving the country. Turkish jet firm MNG on January 3rd said that a rogue employee falsified records and then arranged for flights to get Ghosn from Japan to Turkey and then transfer to Lebanon. The matter has been referred to Turkish prosecutors.
For his part, Ghosn’s lawyer in Japan initially said he was “dumbfounded” by word of the escape. The high-powered legal team hired by the former executive on Wednesday Tokyo time refused to provide prosecutors access to the computer Ghosn used in their offices to access the Internet citing Japan’s criminal code, according to news reports from Japan.