Carlos Ghosn: I’m the victim of a Nissan plot

Carlos Ghosn is claiming a plot against him by Nissan executives caused his spectacular downfall.

In his first media interview since his stunning arrest more than two months ago, Ghosn told Japanese news organization Nikkei that he had “no doubt” that the allegations against him are the result of “plot and treason” by Nissan executives who opposed his plan to deepen the automaker’s integration with its French partner Renault.

One of the most prominent figures in the global auto industry, Ghosn has been detained by Japanese prosecutors since November 19.

During the Nikkei interview, he reiterated his denial of charges of financial misconduct, which have cost him his top roles at Nissan, Renault and Mitsubishi Motors — the three companies he brought together to form the world’s biggest carmaking alliance.

The 64-year-old business leader’s fall from grace has raised questions about the future of the alliance, which makes one in nine cars sold worldwide and employs more than 450,000 people.

In the interview published Wednesday, Ghosn rejected suggestions that he ran Nissan for nearly two decades as a “dictatorship.”

“People translated strong leadership to dictator, to distort reality” and for the “purpose of getting rid of me,” he told Nikkei.

Nissan said in November that it began cooperating with Japanese prosecutors after a whistleblower helped it uncover serious financial misconduct by Ghosn.

In the interview, Ghosn acknowledged for the first time that “there was a plan” to integrate the three carmakers more closely and that this had been discussed with Nissan CEO Hiroto Saikawa. Ghosn said his plan was to give Nissan, Renault and Mitsubishi “autonomy under one holding company.”

Analysts have repeatedly speculated that Nissan executives were uncomfortable about the possibility of Renault and Ghosn seeking full control of the Japanese company. Nissan, which sells more vehicles than Renault, has only a 15% non-voting stake in the French company. Renault holds more than 40% of Nissan.

Responding to the interview, a Nissan spokesman said that “the sole cause of this chain of events is the misconduct led by Ghosn.”

‘Distortion of reality’

Japanese prosecutors have indicted him on allegations he understated his income at Nissan by about $80 million between 2010 and 2018, and abused his position by improperly using the company to help sort out personal investment losses during the global financial crisis.

Ghosn told Nikkei that the arrangements had been approved by the relevant executives within Nissan and weren’t inappropriate.

Nissan and Mitsubishi have separately alleged that Ghosn improperly received €7.8 million ($8.9 million) in compensation and other payments from a joint venture between the two carmakers.

Ghosn said the venture was established for “synergy and not for payment” and that claims of improper payments were a “distortion of reality.”