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Carlos Ghosn's legal team accuses Nissan of 'perversion of truth’

In this file photo taken on November 08, 2018, then-Chairman and CEO of Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Carlos Ghosn looks on during a visit of French President Emmanuel Macron at the Renault factory in Maubeuge, France.
In this file photo taken on November 08, 2018, then-Chairman and CEO of Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Carlos Ghosn looks on during a visit of French President Emmanuel Macron at the Renault factory in Maubeuge, France. LUDOVIC MARIN/AFP

Fugitive former Renault-Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn's legal team opened fire on Tuesday on Nissan Motor Co Ltd, charging the automaker used a "flawed, biased" internal investigation to engineer Ghosn's arrest and stop him from more closely integrating Nissan and its French alliance partner Renault SA.

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Ghosn is set to hold a highly anticipated press conference in Lebanon on Wednesday, the first by the fugitive car magnate since his Houdini-like escape from trial in Japan on December 31.

The globe-trotting mogul, once a giant of the car industry, has given few media statements since he jumped bail and landed in his native Lebanon almost two weeks ago, in the latest twist to a gripping saga.

The encounter with the media is scheduled for 3pm local time (2pm Paris time) at Lebanon’s press syndicate headquarters. A day in advance, journalists were already gathering outside the building.

A fight to restore reputation

The one-time auto industry star has said he will fight to restore his reputation, tarnished by accusations of criminal misconduct and by Nissan's struggles since his ouster.

Ghosn was awaiting trial in Japan on charges of financial misconduct when he slipped away from his Tokyo residence, crossed Japan on a bullet train and was smuggled onto charter jets that delivered him from Osaka to Lebanon via Istanbul. Ghosn has said he fled a rigged Japanese justice system after authorities delayed his trial into 2021.

In their statement, Ghosn's lawyers said Nissan "never once" tried to interview the executive, or share with him evidence it had accumulated against him.

Turkish and Japanese authorities are investigating how Ghosn was smuggled out of Japan and through a Turkish airport on his way to Beirut. Interpol has issued a "red notice" seeking Ghosn's arrest.

'Victim of a coup'

Japanese authorities on Monday issued an arrest warrant for Ghosn's wife, Carole, for alleged perjury in connection with her husband's financial dealings.

The statement from Ghosn's legal team seeks to focus attention on his charge that he was the victim of a coup by Nissan executives who opposed giving up more authority to Renault.

Ghosn was arrested by Japanese police on Nov. 19, 2018. Nissan said an internal investigation found that Ghosn had engaged in personal use of company money and had under-reported his income in violation of Japanese law.

In their statement, Ghosn's lawyers said Nissan's claim of "a robust, thorough internal investigation" is a "gross perversion of the truth." Instead, the lawyers wrote, the investigation "was initiated and carried out for the specific, predetermined purpose of taking down Carlos Ghosn to prevent him from further integrating Nissan and Renault, which threatened the independence of Nissan."

The former Nissan and Renault SA chairman has denied all charges against him and said he was the victim of "backstabbing" and "conspiracy" by Nissan executives who wanted to derail his efforts to merge the two automakers.

Ghosn's legal team also accused Nissan of allowing Hari Nada, an executive "whose own conduct was the subject of the investigation," to run the probe of Ghosn. The statement also charged that Latham & Watkins, the law firm that assisted Nissan's investigation, was not independent because it has long acted as outside counsel for the company.

Ghosn's lawyers said Nissan's investigation failed to uncover evidence that then-CEO Hiroto Saikawa had also benefited from improper compensation. Saikawa resigned last year after admitting he had been overpaid in violation of internal procedures. 

Watch Ghosn’s press conference live on FRANCE 24.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)

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