By on April 9, 2019

Out on bail and awaiting trial, former Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn was arrested in Japan last week for the fourth time since November — putting the kibosh on a scheduled press conference where he promised to “tell the truth” about what’s been going on.

While Ghosn’s supposed bombshell will have to wait for another day, he did manage to get word out from prison in a personal video message to the world.

Much of the story we’ve heard before, which Ghosn acknowledged. The former exec continues to claim that the charges against him are false and that he’s the victim of a corporate conspiracy orchestrated by Nissan’s upper management. The reasons are multifaceted, and something we’ve covered before, but the gist is that the brand’s performance suffered after Ghosn stepped down in 2017; meanwhile, executives and shareholders were diametrically opposed to a merger with Renault — as they would lose their already weak influence in the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance.

“This is about a plot, this is about conspiracy, this is about backstabbing. That’s what we are talking about,” Ghosn said in a pre-recorded video messages released by his legal team.

There’s a lot of anecdotal evidence to support those claims. Nissan’s internal investigation appeared to be in direct response to new merger claims and the probable firing of the brand’s current CEO and Ghosn’s former protégé, Hiroto Saikawa — who later decided to stay on as chief officer after his mentor’s fall, despite earlier assurances that he would soon retire. Numerous individuals reported to the media how ugly executive infighting had become after Nissan’s final inspection scandal.

Japan’s legal system has also been called into question. Ghosn’s case is high-profile, and his repeated detentions have made many wonder if the country’s legal system is all it’s cracked up to be. The ludicrously high conviction rate of over 99 percent has made the West suspicious as to whether Ghosn can even get a fair trial, helping to strengthen his conspiracy claims. While Ghosn stated that he still loved Japan and was confident he would receive a fair trial in the video, he noted that his legal team was less optimistic.

“They don’t share with me a lot of serenity about the fairness of the trail,” he said. “I’m not the lawyer. I’m not competent in this matter. But I will leave it to them to explain to you what are the specific conditions that are required to ensure a fair trial that I can be, hopefully, vindicated.”

Ghosn is wisely trying to remain positive and innocent-looking while furnishing doubts about the Japanese legal system and Nissan. But it doesn’t add up to much without evidence. Yes, Nissan’s investigation looks exactly like a concerted effort to try and oust him from any and all decision making from the company. But if there was criminal wrongdoing on his part, that doesn’t really matter all that much.

It’s easy to believe Ghosn’s story. It makes a lot of sense. You might even think his absolutely essential role in bringing Nissan back from the brink of disaster and building the alliance with Renault entitles him to a hefty reward. But it doesn’t make him not guilty of financial misconduct. While minor confusion exists as to what part of his retirement package was — and wasn’t — approved, both Renault and claimed to have uncovered payments made under Ghosn that allegedly went toward corporate jets, a yacht, and unrelated family businesses.

First detained in November, Ghosn was initially charged with under-reporting his pay package. By January, authorities had leveled additional charges, claiming he withheld financial information for longer than originally assumed. This month, new charges revolve around accusations that he transferred $15 million of Nissan’s funds to Oman between 2015 and July 2018 — with around $5 million going to GFI, a Lebanese investment firm company Ghosn effectively owns. That’s where the yacht supposedly came from.

There’s still a lot of he said/she said surrounding the case. With any luck, a big, illuminating break will occur sooner than later. Ghosn’s team disabled embedding of his video but it’s available on his YouTube channel for those interested.

[Image: YouTube]

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