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Interview

Ghosn vows to 'get back my rights' since escape from Japan

Ex-Nissan Motor chief who fled to Lebanon remains defiant of charges against him

The former Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn speaks during an online interview. (Screenshot from video) 

TOKYO -- Carlos Ghosn, the former Nissan Motor chief turned fugitive, has vowed to defend his rights in the face of charges from Nissan and Renault despite fleeing Japan nearly two years ago following his arrest.

In an interview over Zoom from the Lebanese capital Beirut on Tuesday, Ghosn justified his escape from Japan, calling it a way of speaking out against the accusations against him.

"The whole thing was a joke but [Nissan] thought they would get away with it because I couldn't speak," he said. "But they never thought that I would get out of Japan, and then I would be able to talk. And now the battle is completely different."

"That's what makes me extremely motivated to continue this battle for as [long] as it takes to get back my rights from Nissan, and also from Renault." Ghosn added that he wanted to "contribute to the change, or the evolution of the hostage justice system in Japan."

Ghosn is charged with underreporting his pay and aggravated breach of trust. He is accused of underreporting his compensation by conspiring with executives to pay himself 9.1 billion yen ($87 million) upon his retirement.

He denies any wrongdoing and fled Japan in December 2019 while out on bail awaiting trial. In July, a Tokyo court sentenced the U.S. Army Special Forces veteran Michael Taylor and his son Peter to prison sentences for helping Ghosn escape.

Lebanon has no extradition treaty with Japan, and it has also not responded to a wanted notice by Interpol at the request of Japanese investigators.

Ghosn said he is "happy" and "very busy," writing books, participating in films and TV shows and teaching management at universities. A documentary about his arrest and escape, "Carlos Ghosn: The Last Flight," began streaming in Japan on the U-Next broadcasting platform last month.

He also said he spends time "with my lawyers all over the planet" to defend his rights. He acknowledged that there is a legal battle with Nissan over the house in which he is currently living in Lebanon. He was also ordered by a Dutch court to repay 5 million euros ($6.1 million) in wages to Nissan and Mitsubishi. Ghosn said he is appealing the ruling.

Former Nissan executive Itaru Koeda has testified in a Tokyo court that Ghosn had grown "arrogant," while former Nissan COO Toshiyuki Shiga said he was asked by Ghosn to find an auditor that would not speak up against him.

Ghosn called their arguments "very childish," saying that they were in a position to oppose the arrangements. He called Greg Kelly, who is facing charges that he helped Ghosn hide his compensation, the "only honest and straightforward person." Kelly remained in Japan to face trial and has pleaded not guilty.

Ghosn also blasted Nissan and its alliance with Mitsubishi Motors and France's Renault under new management, calling the companies "zombies." Nissan reported large losses in the two fiscal years since his arrest, before forecasting a return to profit for the current fiscal year.

He defended his aggressive growth strategies at Nissan and brushed off critics who called them the reason for the poor performance since his arrest. "It's a very childish argument used by people who have no argument to explain a mediocre performance," he said. "It's a competitive game. You don't hide from competition, you confront competition."

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