► Carlos Ghosn subject of 'coup'
► His first interview since pay scandal
► Ghosn remains in a Japanese jail
Deposed Nissan and Renault chief Carlos Ghosn claims he has been the subject of a 'plot and treason' in his first interview since being arrested for misreporting his pay. Speaking from jail in Japan, the former CEO says he has 'no doubt' that he has been removed by powerful executives in Nissan, worried about the proposed closer integration of the partner brands in the alliance.
Speaking to the Nikkei Asian Review from the Tokyo Detention House where he's been held for more than two months, Ghosn said that senior forces within Nissan wanted to 'get rid' of him when plans emerged last autumn to integrate Nissan, Renault and Mitsubishi more closely.
He protested his innocence and was adamant that the pay and homes around the globe had all been approved by the company's benefits and legal teams. 'I needed a safe place where I can work and receive people in both Brazil and Lebanon,' he told the reporter.
Ghosn said 'there is up and down' while he languishes in jail, but confirmed that his health is 'doing fine.' A court in Tokyo declined his second request for bail on 22 January 2019.
Carlos Ghosn steps down as CEO of Renault
His interview was made days after he stepped down as chief executive officer of Renault, making way for Thierry Bolloré. It was only a matter of time before the beleaguered executive was ousted from the French car maker, matching his expulsion from alliance partners Nissan and Mitsubishi over his allegedly misreported pay.
Renault is splitting its leadership and is appointing a separate CEO and chairman, to add tighter governance, it said in a statement. At this stage, there is no suggestion that Ghosn has fiddled his remuneration at Renault, but his fall from grace in Japan has made his position untenable.
Fresh allegations of financial misconduct
Ghosn's exit from the European arm of the alliance follows new allegations made in late January 2019 that the former Nissan CEO has received a further $9 million (£7m) in improper payments from a joint venture between Nissan and Mitsubishi based in the Netherlands.
Nissan claims that Ghosn was compensated by the business without consulting two other board members Nissan CEO Hiroto Saikawa and his counterpart at Mitsubishi, Osamu Masuko.
In a statement Nissan said: 'Nissan views the payments Ghosn received from [the joint venture] to be the result of misconduct and will consider measures to recover from Ghosn the full sum.'
Both companies have already sacked him after his arrest last year, for financial misconduct, misreporting his pay and breach of trust. His resignation from Renault on 24 January 2019 was widely predicted.
Carlos Ghosn in first court appearance
Ghosn publicly denied any wrongdoing in his first public appearance in court in Tokyo on 9 January 2019. Handcuffed and with a rope around his waist, a visibly thinner Ghosn said in a statement he had been 'wrongly accused and unfairly detained.'
It was the first time he'd been seen in public since his arrest in November 2018. He has been held in a Japanese jail ever since, accused of misrepresenting his pay over an eight-year period, as well as using company assets to buy personal property and hide trading losses in the wake of the global recession a decade ago.
'I have been wrongly accused and unfairly detained, based on meritless and unsubstantiated accusations,' Ghosn told the Tokyo District Court. His defence called on Japanese prosecutors to release him; so far they have been unwilling to do so, fearing he may tamper with evidence or witnesses, or flee abroad.
If found guilty, Ghosn faces up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to 700 million yen (£5m), according to Japanese regulators.
Why Carlos Ghosn and Greg Kelly were arrested
Prosecutors in Tokyo have indicted Carlos Ghosn and Greg Kelly, the two men at the centre of the pay scandal engulfing Nissan - and the car maker has also been indicted for misrepresenting its former chairman's pay.
Both senior Nissan executives have been re-arrested, extending the time they can be kept in jail. They have been held at a detention centre since 19 November 2018, when the scandal first broke. Kelly has subsequently been released.
'Making false disclosures in annual securities reports greatly harms the integrity of Nissan’s public disclosures in the securities markets, and the company expresses its deepest regret,' the company said. 'Nissan will continue its efforts to strengthen its governance and compliance, including making accurate disclosures of corporate information.'
2018: not a good year to be a car boss
Why Carlos Ghosn was arrested over his pay
One of the biggest car industry bosses in the world - Carlos Ghosn, chairman of Renault Nissan - has been ousted from his role as chairman of Nissan.
The board voted unanimously to remove Ghosn and senior executive Greg Kelly 'to minimise the potential impact and confusion on the day-to-day cooperation among the Alliance partners.'
Both men have been arrested in Tokyo amid claims they conspired to misrepresent the chairman's pay over many years.
Emergency press conference: the new Nissan CEO speaks
‘I feel despair, indignation and resentment,’ Nissan chief executive Hiroto Saikawa (above) told an emergency news conference in Yokahama on 19 November, the day news broke. ‘As the details are disclosed I believe that people will feel the same way as I feel today.'
He confirmed Nissan's plan to remove Ghosn, 64, from office. His immediate plan was to ‘stabilise the situation, and normalise day-to-day operations,’ Saikawa added.
'Too much authority was given to one person in terms of governance... I have to say that this is a dark side of the Ghosn era which lasted for a long time.' The CEO said he was still pondering whether Ghosn was 'a charismatic figure or a tyrant.'
Unconfirmed local reports claim Ghosn under-reported an amount totalling 5 billion yen (£34 million) over a five-year period from 2011. Nissan has yet to reveal any amounts or details, but has admitted that 'numerous other significant acts of misconduct [including] personal use of company assets' were being investigated.
Ghosn is also accused of having company-paid houses in four countries, according to Japanese media. It is also alleged that the arrested men were planning retirement payment schemes.
Shares in Nissan fell by 4%, Mitsubishi was down by 7% and Renault stock hit a four-year low in Europe in the days after their arrest. Ghosn is also CEO and chairman of Renault and chairman of Mitsubishi Motors.
Nissan statement on Carlos Ghosn pay investigation
Nissan said it had been investigating Ghosn's compensation and pay packages for several months, as well as the actions of Greg Kelly, representative director at the company.
'Based on a whistleblower report, Nissan Motor Co Ltd has been conducting an internal investigation over the past several months regarding misconduct involving the company's chairman Carlos Ghosn and representative director Greg Kelly.
'The investigation showed that over many years both Ghosn and Kelly have been reporting compensation amounts in the Tokyo Stock Exchange securities report that were less than the actual amount, in order to reduce the disclosed amount of Carlos Ghosn's compensation.'
Ghosn and Kelly were unavailable for comment.
The end of the road for Ghosn
Ghosn was credited with turning around Renault and Nissan and is the architect of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Motors strategic alliance, that he still chairs. He also backed the group's pioneering move into mainstream electric cars, but in recent years he has been shedding some of his responsibilities as talk turns to succession planning.
Needless to say, he remains innocent until proven guilty. But it seems that the next few weeks will be crucial in determining Ghosn's legacy as one of the big beasts of the global car industry.
This is a breaking news story and we will update it as soon as we know more