By YURI KAGEYAMA
AP Business Writer
TOKYO (AP) — The defense team for former Nissan Chairman Carlos Ghosn on Wednesday slammed Nissan’s investigation that accuses him of financial misconduct as flawed and biased, not independent, and aimed only at taking him down.
“Nissan’s claim that it conducted ‘a robust, thorough internal investigation’ is a gross perversion of the truth. Rather, the facts demonstrate that investigation was never about finding the truth,” said a statement from French consultancy company Image Sept for the defense team.
“It was initiated and carried out for the specific, predetermined purpose of taking down Carlos Ghosn to prevent him from further integrating Nissan and Renault, which threatened the independence of Nissan, one of Japan’s iconic, flagship companies.”
Ghosn skipped bail last week while awaiting trial in Japan and is now in Lebanon. He led the Japanese automaker for two decades and has repeatedly characterized the Japanese criminal case against him as meant to block a fuller merger with Nissan’s French alliance partner Renault.
He was expected to hold a news conference later Wednesday in Beirut.
Nissan Motor Co. on Tuesday said it would continue to pursue legal action against Ghosn despite his flight to Lebanon and reiterated its allegations that Ghosn engaged in serious misconduct while leading the Nissan-Renault-Mitsubishi alliance.
The statement from the French consultants said Nissan in its internal investigation never questioned Ghosn directly about the allegations and asserted Nissan has not targeted others at the company, such as Hiroto Saikawa, Ghosn’s successor.
Saikawa resigned last year after allegations related to dubious income surfaced against him. He has not been charged.
It also said a Nissan employee who admitted to wrongdoing was involved in the investigation.
Nissan faces trial as a company in Japan, and it has indicated it will comply and pay required fines.
Ghosn was charged with under-reporting his future compensation and with breach of trust in diverting Nissan money for his personal benefit. He has repeatedly said the compensation was never decided and the payments were for legitimate business.
Also Tuesday, Japan sought the arrest of Carole Ghosn, Ghosn’s wife, who is believed to be with him in Lebanon, on suspicion of perjury related to statements she made at a Tokyo court last year related to her husband’s case.
How Ghosn managed to leave Japan while under surveillance as part of his bail conditions has riveted the public.
He is seen on security footage walking alone out of his Tokyo home. He reportedly took a bullet train to Kansai Airport and flew first to Turkey and then to Lebanon on private jets.
Japan’s Justice Minister Masako Mori said this week that luggage and cargo checks were being strengthened for private jets at all airports. She did not confirm reports Ghosn hid in a box for musical equipment to escape.
Japan has seized the 1.5 billion yen ($14 million) bail Ghosn posted. But government officials also have acknowledged that seeking an individual’s return from Lebanon to stand trial is difficult and sensitive. Lebanon and Japan do not have an extradition treaty, and Lebanon generally does not extradite its citizens.
Yuri Kageyama is on Twitter https://twitter.com/yurikageyama
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