Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 18 February 2020

In FT column ex-Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn lashes out at Japan's judicial system

"My treatment by Japan’s hostage justice system pushed me to leave," Ghosn wrote in the Financial Times

Former Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn gestures during a news conference at the Lebanese Press Syndicate in Beirut earlier this month. Reuters.
Former Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn gestures during a news conference at the Lebanese Press Syndicate in Beirut earlier this month. Reuters.

Ex-Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn, who fled to his parents’ birthplace in Beirut from Tokyo where he was facing trial, criticised Japan's judicial system and said company shareholders are now paying the price for the aftermath of his incarceration.

Nissan shareholders and employees have suffered from a drop in share prices, a plunge in the company's market valuation, plummeting profits and massive job cuts, the fallen automotive tycoon said in an opinion piece in the Financial Times on Wednesday. He pinned responsibility for the damage to Nissan and its alliance with France's Renault and Mitsubishi on Japanese officials such as justice minister Masako Mori and others.

"The primary interest of the Japanese justice system in my case is said to be the protection of shareholders and investors," Mr Ghosn said. "This claim seems to ignore the fact that, aside from myself and Nissan employees, shareholders have been the most adversely affected by this affair."

The company's share price has tanked more 30 per cent so far --while the MSCI world auto index rose seven percent, the company's market value dropped by $10 billion (Dh36.7bn), profits plunged 95 per cent and 12,500 people have lost their jobs after Mr Ghosn's arrest.

Mr Ghosn, who holds, Lebanese, Brazilian and French citizenship, said his saga highlights that the Japanese judicial process assumes guilt and seeks punishment, leaving the defendants to prove their innocence, he said.

The executive, who was accused of understating his income, was ousted and arrested while his successor as Nissan chief executive, Hiroto Saikwa, publicly admitted receiving excess renumeration payments but continues to remain on the Nissan board.

"This is a double standard that I believe is rooted in naked bias," he said.

This indicated that Japan's justice system that seeks to ensure the sound functioning of corporate life is driven by non-shareholder government officials with "half-baked nationalist agendas, without considering the views of boards and shareholders," he said in the scathing opinion piece.

Mr Ghosn further criticised Japan's legal system, pointing out that 14 months after his arrest no trial date has been set. He noted that Ms Mori encouraged him to prove his innocent in court of law, a comment that ignores presumption of innocent and burden of proving guilt and violates judicial independence by commenting on an individual case publicly.

The criticisms of the Japanese judicial system are not new but the high-profile case of Mr Ghosn has shed more light on the issue.

"My case has merely highlighted human rights violations that have been decried by members of a UN committee against torture in 2013, Human Rights Watch and in a letter signed by more than 1000 Japanese legal professionals," he said.

While paying respect to Japanese people and culture, he said the country "deserves better" from its leaders and those responsible for the damage to the Nissan-Renault-Mitsubishi alliance.

Updated: January 22, 2020 03:05 PM

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