TOKYO: Former Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn said on Tuesday he had been “wrongly accused and unfairly detained” at a high-profile court hearing in Japan, his first appearance since his arrest in November rocked the business world.
Entering the court handcuffed and with a rope around his waist, the once-revered titan of the auto industry mounted a passionate defence against a string of financial misconduct allegations.
The 64-year-old was thinner — his family says he has lost up to 20 kilograms (44 pounds) due to the rice-based diet in his Tokyo detention centre — and his hair was greying. He appeared in a dark suit without a tie and wore dark green plastic slippers.
“I have been wrongly accused and unfairly detained based on meritless and unsubstantiated accusations,” he told the Tokyo District Court in a clear and steady voice.
Throughout proceedings, he showed no emotion and mostly faced forward or looked down, glancing occasionally at the gallery in the packed courtroom as journalists and sketch artists rushed in and out.
His cheekbones were more prominent as a result of the weight loss but the executive otherwise appeared in decent health, coughing occasionally during the hearing.
In a career spanning decades, during which he won praise for turning around the struggling Japanese car maker, he said he had “always acted with integrity” and had never before been accused of any wrongdoing.
“I have acted honourably, legally and with the knowledge and approval of the appropriate executives inside the company,” stressed Ghosn.
From the moment on November 19 that prosecutors stormed his private jet at a Tokyo airport, the twists and turns of the Ghosn case have gripped Japan and the business world.
At one point, the Franco-Lebanese-Brazilian tycoon appeared on the point of release, only for prosecutors to produce further allegations against him to continue his custody.
In an indication of the interest the case has sparked in Japan, more than 1,000 people waited outside the court from the early hours in the hope of getting one of just 14 tickets for the public gallery.
Tuesday’s hearing itself caught observers off-guard as Ghosn’s lawyers deployed a rarely-used article of the Japanese constitution to force the court to explain the reasons for his detention.
Presiding Judge Yuichi Tada read out the charges against Ghosn and said he was being detained because he was a flight risk and there was a possibility he would conceal evidence.
The suspect has “bases in foreign countries” and may “escape”, Tada said. — AFP