Nissan's Ghosn claims innocence in first appearance since November arrest
Ousted Nissan Chairman Carlos Ghosn declared his innocence in his first public appearance since his November arrest, telling a Tokyo court on Tuesday that he had been wrongly accused of financial misconduct, Trend reports citing Reuters.
Ghosn, credited with rescuing Nissan Motor Co from near-bankruptcy two decades ago, was brought into the courtroom in handcuffs and a rope around his waist. He was wearing a navy suit and white shirt without a tie, and looked thinner than before his arrest, with his dark hair showing gray roots.
“I have been wrongly accused and unfairly detained based on meritless and unsubstantiated accusations,” the 64-year-old executive told the Tokyo District Court in a clear voice, reading from a prepared statement.
“I believe strongly that in all of my efforts on behalf of the company, I have acted honorably, legally and with the knowledge and approval of the appropriate executives inside the company,” he said.
From early morning, a crowd of journalists and television crews thronged outside the courthouse, and some 1,122 people lined up for 14 court seats assigned by lottery, highlighting strong interest in the case. News of the hearing was given top billing on public broadcaster NHK throughout the day.
The court hearing, requested by Ghosn’s lawyers, was held to explain the reasons for his prolonged detention since his Nov. 19 arrest rather than to argue merits of the case. Judge Yuichi Tada said the detention was due to flight risk and the possibility he could conceal evidence.
But Ghosn used the opportunity to deny accusations against him, kicking off what is expected to be a lengthy counter-attack against the accusations.
Former prosecutor Nobuo Gohara said the court appearance was a public relations victory for Ghosn because it gave him an opportunity to counter the weeks of negative news about him.
“In this high-profile case, news had been dominated by information from the prosecutors and Nissan, so the public tended to view him accordingly,” he said. “But today it was all Ghosn. That’s very significant.”
After weeks of silence, Ghosn’s lawyers insisted in an afternoon press conference that the courts have no reason to keep him behind bars during the investigation.
On Dec. 31, the Tokyo District Court granted prosecutors’ request to extend Ghosn’s detention by 10 days until Jan. 11.
But former prosecutor Motonari Otsuru, who heads Ghosn’s defense team, said it was likely Ghosn would stay in custody until the trial starts, which could be in six months, given the practice in Japan of keeping defendants locked up until trial.
The Tokyo District Court said later on Tuesday that Ghosn’s lawyers have asked for an end to his detention.
One of Ghosn’s lawyers, Masato Oshikubo, told Reuters that a reply from the court to the request could come on Wednesday.