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Nissan's Ghosn crisis

Ghosn blasts detention in new interview as experts weigh in

Former judge says ousted Nissan chairman 'should be let out'

Carlos Ghosn has been refused bail twice since he was charged with financial misconduct. (Nikkei montage/Reuters)

TOKYO -- Former Nissan Motor Chairman Carlos Ghosn has hit out at the justice system in Japan, saying his extended detention "would not be normal in any other democracy."

The former executive was speaking to AFP and Les Echos on Thursday from the Tokyo Detention House where he has been held without bail for more than 70 days, after prosecutors arrested him on charges of financial misconduct.

It was his second public interview in two days, after he spoke with Nikkei on Wednesday and denounced the allegations as the result of "plot and treason" by Nissan executives opposed to his plan for deeper integration with alliance partners Renault and Mitsubishi Motors.

In his interview with AFP, Ghosn reiterated that he was not a flight risk and would not destroy evidence. His requests for bail have been rejected twice.

"The prosecutors agreed to a plea bargain, so they should have already collected enough evidence," said Hiroshi Kadono, a lawyer and former judge in the Tokyo courts. "Ghosn's promise not to destroy evidence is persuasive, and he should be let out on bail."

The former tycoon has been charged with underreporting his salary over several years, and aggravated breach of trust for allegedly transferring to Nissan personal trading losses from foreign exchange contracts.

The breach-of-trust charges center on $14.7 million in payments to a company run by Saudi businessman Khaled al-Juffali.

In the Nikkei interview, Ghosn denied the accusations and claimed "the executive in charge of the region signed [the approval]."

"He means to say that because proper procedures were followed, he's not responsible," said Yasuyuki Takai, a former prosecutor. "But someone could sign off without knowing how the money is actually being used, so that doesn't stand up as a defense."

"If Ghosn is going to argue that the payments were for the sake of the company, he needs to show what results could have been expected, and that the amount was appropriate."

The comments were widely circulated in international media, including French newspapers Le Monde and Le Figaro. A French government official declined to comment on Ghosn's remarks.

Ghosn said in his Nikkei interview that he had discussed with Nissan President Hiroto Saikawa in September a plan to integrate Renault with Nissan and Mitsubishi. Ghosn said he had wanted to include Mitsubishi Motors CEO Osamu Masuko in the talks, but "Saikawa wanted it one-on-one."

"It's natural that the governance of these companies would be in the form of a holding company," said Takaki Nakanishi, president of the Nakanishi Research Institute, which analyzes the auto industry. "If it's true Saikawa avoided including Masuko in the talks, he has a responsibility to explain that."

"The sole cause of this chain of events is the misconduct led by Ghosn and (Greg) Kelly," said Nissan spokesman Nicholas Maxfield, adding that this resulted in a unanimous board vote to dismiss both chairman and representative director. Kelly was arrested at the same time as Ghosn in November, for underreporting Ghosn's salary.

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