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Interview

Exclusive: Ghosn's wife says she has 'nothing to do' with allegations

Japanese court's restriction on contact designed to 'punish' her husband

Carole Ghosn appears with her husband, former Nissan Motor Chairman Carlos Ghosn, in Tokyo on March 9. 

TOKYO -- Carole Ghosn, the wife of former Nissan Motor Chairman Carlos Ghosn, on Wednesday denied any involvement in the criminal allegations against her husband, and she asked to be joined with him while he is on bail.

In an exclusive interview with the Nikkei Asian Review via a 30-minute video conference from New York, Carole Ghosn said she had "nothing to do" with allegations that Carlos Ghosn misused company money for personal needs while he was head of Nissan.

One such claim by Japanese prosecutors involves allegations that payments from Nissan to an Omani distributor were used to fund a luxury yacht for the Ghosn family.

"I have nothing to do with the company," she said of Beauty Yachts, the British Virgin Islands-registered entity that purchased the luxury vessel. "I am responsible for the boat. I decorated the boat. But I didn't even know that there was a company."

The Ghosns also have been accused of benefiting from a questionable sponsorship deal between Renault, where Carlos Ghosn also served as chairman, and the historic Chateau de Versailles. The couple have been criticized for holding their own party at the palace in October 2016, four months after the sponsorship was signed.

"No money was lost to the company," Carole Ghosn told Nikkei. She said that Renault sponsored the renovation of a room at the Chateau de Versailles and was allowed to use it for a certain number of hours in return. Her husband was told by aides that the room was available to use, but not that the hours would be deducted from Renault's slot, she said.

"The mistake was [that] no one came to Carlos and told him, 'Hey, Versailles deducted five hours of our space. Maybe we should pay for it.' No one told him. So, he didn’t know," she said.

A Tokyo court allowed Carlos Ghosn to be released on bail late last month, but restricted the couple from contacting each other without court permission. Carole Ghosn said that the decision is like a punishment, depriving the couple of basic human rights.

As long as the restriction is in place, the couple will have to remain separated until the district court hands down a verdict, which could be months or even years away.

Carole Ghosn speaks to Nikkei via video conference on Wednesday. (Photo by Yosuke Kurabe)

Carole Ghosn said she came to New York to join her children and live in a house of her own.

During the interview, she was asked about the physical and mental condition of her husband.

"I haven't really spoken to him," she said, adding that the question should be directed to his lawyer.

"I ask his children and his lawyer how he's doing," she said. "How good can he be? He's 65 years old and has been in detention for over 130 days ... How can he be healthy being in such a situation? He's not a 20-year old."

Carole Ghosn said she was "devastated" at the order to be separated "at a time when he needs me the most, or we need each other to support the most, because we are going through probably the most difficult times of our lives."

Carlos Ghosn's lawyers are expected to file a request allowing the couple to stay together as early as Thursday. Their previous request to let the couple meet for an hour a day in the presence of lawyers has been rejected. The defense counsel insists that the restriction is inhumane and unreasonable.

The case has shed light not only on Nissan's lack of corporate governance, but also on Japan's justice system, which is widely criticized as being out of line with the legal practices of other advanced nations. Concerns especially have been voiced about the enormous power of prosecutors, including their ability to keep a suspect in detention for an extended time without indictment. Interrogations are conducted without the presence of defense counsel, which critics say is a way to force confessions.

The restriction on meeting her husband is "an extension of hostage justice," Carole Ghosn said. "I think they did it on purpose to pressure him and punish him. I think they are trying to pursue justice in the most unjust way."

Carlos Ghosn was arrested in Tokyo last November. He is accused of a number of offenses, including failing to report post-retirement compensation in Nissan financial statements and making the automaker pay a Saudi company whose chief had helped Ghosn deal with his personal derivatives losses.

Ghosn was released on bail in March, only to be detained once more the following month amid allegations that some of the money Nissan paid to the Omani distributor was used to fund the yacht and to invest in a fund managed by Ghosn's son, Anthony. He was released on bail for the second time on April 25.

Carlos Ghosn denies any wrongdoing and says the allegations are the result of "plot and treason" by Nissan executives opposed to his plan for deeper integration between French automaker Renault and its two Japanese alliance partners: Nissan and Mitsubishi Motors.

His wife said that she is not related to any of these allegations.

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