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Nissan's Ghosn crisis

'I'm shocked': Ghosn arrest stuns Nissan employees

Offices abuzz as company aims to fire iconic chairman

Journalists gather in front of Nissan's global headquarters in Yokohama, Japan, on Nov. 19. (Photo by Rie Ishii)

YOKOHAMA, Japan -- Nissan Motor employees expressed bewilderment Monday evening as the automaker prepared to dismiss Chairman Carlos Ghosn, who was arrested that day on suspicion of underreporting income.

"I'm struggling to understand what happened," a worker said as staffers left Nissan's global headquarters at the end of the day with stiff expressions, many hurrying past gathered journalists without looking up.

"It came out of the blue. I don't know what to think," a stunned 38-year-old employee said. He learned of the news online shortly before leaving the office at 7 p.m.

"The timing is awful," he said of the arrest, which came on the heels of scandals over falsified emissions data and improper finished-vehicle checks.

One angry 34-year-old said that "it's unthinkable for the company head to be arrested."

Employees gasped when the news broke, he said. "But we went back to work as usual. The guy must have just wanted money," he spat.

A 50-something veteran was more contrite. "As an employee, I feel sorry," he said, without specifying to whom. "For now, I can only wait for the full truth to come out."

"I hope they really cut the problem out at the roots this time," said another 34-year-old, who joined the automaker two years ago.

"The workplace is buzzing," he said. "There's been no explanation at all from the company."

Some were more reticent, waving off journalists' questions. "I don't know anything," a woman leaving through a staff entrance said.

In Tokyo's Minato Ward, members of the press also gathered at a high-rise housing complex thought to be Ghosn's local residence.

"Why did he want so much money as to be dishonest to get it, when he was getting paid so much as an executive?" asked a 76-year-old who lives in the same complex and said she had seen Ghosn multiple times. "It's a betrayal of consumers."

The special investigations department of the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office arrested Ghosn for allegedly understating his compensation by about 5 billion yen ($44 million), in violation of Japan's Financial Instruments and Exchange Act.

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