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Nissan's Ghosn crisis

Ghosn warns Nissan will fail after 'dirty game' to oust him

Ex-chairman's video statement released days after he was arrested for the fourth time in Tokyo

Former Nissan Chairman Carlos Ghosn speaks in a video released by his defense lawyers on April 9. (Courtesy of Ghosn's legal team)

TOKYO -- Carlos Ghosn has accused Nissan Motor executives of sacrificing the interests of the company by playing a "dirty game" to oust him as chairman, in a video statement recorded the day before he was arrested for the fourth time in Tokyo last week.

Although the former Nissan chairman originally cited the names of some executives who planned what he claims was a conspiracy against him, his defense team decided to cut them out of the video in a bid to remove legal risks, his lawyer said.

"I'm worried, because the performance of Nissan is declining and I don't think there is vision for the alliance being built," Ghosn said in the seven-minute video, which was made public by his defense lawyers on Tuesday.

Dressed in a suit and white shirt, Ghosn spoke calmly in the video and, while he did not mention any Nissan executives by name in his accusations, he was scathing about the direction the company was taking.

"Frankly, sitting around a table being consensual about a decision, this is not a vision in an industry as competitive as the car industry," he continued, describing Nissan's recent performance as "absolutely mediocre" and pointing to a decline in the share price. The stock price has declined about 7% since Ghosn was first arrested last November.

"You need to show the future," Ghosn continued. "People who say [leaderships is] either consensus or dictatorship, they don't know what leadership is about."

Ghosn said this "plot" was driven by "a few executives, who for their own interest and selfish fears, are creating a lot value destruction."

"Names? You know them. We are talking about people who played a very dirty game."

The remarks were Ghosn's boldest criticism against Nissan since his arrest in November. Nissan formally ended its 19-year relationship with the former executive when it voted to remove him from its board at an extraordinary shareholders meeting on Monday. Ghosn was rearrested for the fourth time last Thursday on fresh allegations of improperly using company funds, this time allegedly to pay an Omani distributor for his own benefit.

The Brazilian-born tycoon wrote on Twitter the day before his rearrest that he had planned to hold a press conference on April 11 to make his case. However, as a Tokyo court approved a request by prosecutors to detain him for 10 days for further questioning, the plan for the conference was no longer possible.

Ghosn had recorded the video message, "fearing prosecutors might hinder him from holding the press conference," according to Junichiro Hironaka, one of Ghosn's defense lawyers on Tuesday.

"We need to be patient during the investigation, as investigators have powerful authority," claimed Hironaka, when a reporter questioned why he had not made any comment on the series of allegations. "But as soon as the trial starts, our counterattack will start."

Hironaka said that the defense lawyers would file a special appeal to the Supreme Court on Wednesday, objecting to a Tokyo court's approval for Ghosn's detention. "Not only it is rare to rearrest someone who has been released on bail," Hironaka continued, "but the risks of tampering with evidence need to be concrete. We consider [the current approval of detention] violates this rule."

Ghosn's wife, Carole, who traveled to France after her husband's latest arrest, is set to cooperate with questioning related to the investigation, Hironaka said, and intends to return to Japan.

Nissan and Renault, along with Mitsubishi Motors, announced in March the foundation of a new alliance operating board for the purpose of discussing strategy, led by Renault Chairman Jean-Dominique Senard.

"I feel very positive about this consensus-based system, which is much more efficient and well-balanced," Senard said in a news conference held at Nissan headquarters on March 12.

The French and Japanese automakers have a cross-shareholding structure in which Renault holds 43.4% of Nissan but has limited voting rights. Nissan owns 15% of Renault, with no voting rights, and 34% of Mitsubishi.

Nikkei staff writer Wataru Suzuki contributed to this story.

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