By Frank Kane
Fugitive auto mogul Carlos Ghosn wants to stand trial in a country he sees as more neutral than Japan, he told Arab News.
Ghosn, who fled Tokyo 18 months ago, said: âI think the end has to be a trial, but a trial taking place in a country that has no stake in what is being tried. The only thing I ask is that a court be fair and neutral and that it not be motivated by political considerations. That’s all.”
During a broad interview, the former boss of Nissan in Japan and Renault in France explained how he had been “abandoned” by the French government after its “surrender” in Japan; his advice on how Lebanon – where he is currently seeking refuge from international law enforcement – can emerge from its severe economic and political crisis; and his perspective on the Vision 2030 reform strategy in Saudi Arabia.
In a conversation on the series ‘Frankly’ video interviews with leading policymakers and businessmen, he also gave his take on the intense rivalry between Nissan and Toyota in the Middle East.
Ghosn’s fiercest criticism was of the Japanese legal system, after he was arrested and jailed for financial irregularity at the Nissan Motor Co., of which he was chairman.
âProsecutors have prevailed 99.4% of the time, which is unheard of and unheard of, quite frankly. Even though I lived in Japan for 18 years, I never suspected this kind of partition, âhe said.
âBut after going through the system and seeing the kind of bullying – confessions, pressure, human rights violations, etc. – I am even surprised that they only get 99.4% of the confessions. I wonder how the remaining 0.6% could resist when you look at the arsenal of arguments and things they’ve put against you.
The Japanese justice system has been called “hostage justice” by the UN, he said, adding, “I am ready to go to Japan when they change their” hostage justice “system.
He said he “felt bad” for those on trial in Japan, including his former lawyer, Greg Kelly. âI was lucky to be able to get out before the systems blocked me for god knows how many years, but I feel bad for Greg Kelly,â he said.
Japanese prosecutors have charged Ghosn with various financial crimes, including inflating his salary, but he said his compensation has been repeatedly approved by Nissan’s board of directors. âI took it that they were happy, especially knowing that the dividends were being paid, the business was growing, the business was profitable,â he said.
Ghosn – a French citizen as well as a Lebanese and Brazilian citizen – was also scathing about the actions of the government of President Emmanuel Macron, which seemed to want to appease Tokyo over the future of the Nissan-Renault alliance.
âInstead of getting good support, I was abandoned, after two or three weeks of obvious conflict between France and Japan,â he said.
“But then the French surrendered, and they made it very clear – you know that we want to preserve the good relations between Japan and France, we want to preserve the good relations between Nissan and Renault, and we hope that the Japanese justice will solve this problem with Carlos Ghosn â, he declared.
Ghosn has lived in Lebanon since December 2019 with his wife Carole, and is the subject of an Interpol “red notice” at the request of the Japanese government. Lebanon does not extradite citizens.
âLebanon has asked Japan to pass on the accusation and charges so that they can examine them and possibly try me in Lebanon. But Japan refused to do it, âhe said.
Although there is “no chance” that he will get directly involved in Lebanese politics, including considering any offers to become the next president, Ghosn said he was aware of “the misery brought to the country. country by financial collapse, economic recession with all its social consequences.
He was going to “support, help, guide, advise anyone interested in limiting the suffering experienced by people around us,” he said.
âHaving toured many businesses, I know from practice that whatever solution you bring when you need to turn around a business or a country, 5% is strategy and 95% is execution,â he said. declared. “So in a way, those who will save the country are those who are in power and put in power by the Lebanese people, because frankly, the methods and the strategy to get out are quite simple, and they have been (tried) in many countries (and) many companies.
He also gave his perspective on the Vision 2030 reform strategy in Saudi Arabia. “I think that makes a lot of sense – to transform a country from being too dependent on a few resources, to have different sources of income, and different sources of income, and different types of activities for employment,” he said. -he declares.
Ghosn warned that the challenge for Saudi policymakers lies in implementing this strategy. âThe success of this depends on the discipline it is going to be – the execution, the focus (it) is going to be, the people responsible for implementing it and the seriousness with which they will seek to muster the maximum. talent level to transform the reality of Saudi Arabia.
âSaudi Arabia is a very rich country. It has a lot of resources, but I think the country’s officials know it’s not going to last forever. So in my opinion they are doing the right thing and I hope it will be successful, âhe said.
From his perspective as a global automotive expert, he said that the difference between the Nissan business and Toyota’s dominant business in the Kingdom lies in the strength of the distribution network that Toyota has built there in partnership with the Abdul Latif Jameel group.
âThey probably have one of the best distributors in the world located in Saudi Arabia, so it will be very hard to fight if they (Nissan) don’t even have people approaching that level now,â he said. .
He added that he believed the Nissan-Renault-Mitsubishi alliance, which he was developing in the global auto industry, was doomed to fail.
âFrankly, everything I see today makes me see the alliance as a zombie – it means it looks like it’s living matter, but in fact, inside, nothing is happening. So, I am not very optimistic about the future of this alliance. I hope I am wrong, but I bet you that over the next five years this is all going to totally collapse, âhe said.
Ghosn cooperated in the making by Saudi media company MBC of a feature-length documentary, “The Last Flight”, describing his dramatic escape from Japan in a large box of musical instruments aboard a private jet, and analyzing the events leading up to it. , which was released last week.
âI think there was a clear motivation from MBC to do it. They were the first to come to me and tell me that we would like your cooperation to do something like this, and they were very straightforward and honest about it, âhe said.
Ghosn is planning other advertising initiatives, in addition to legal action against his former employers.
âI want to leave something to help restore my reputation, in addition to what I’ll be doing from a legal standpoint. But I have no intention of going back to the high-flying life I had before, âhe said.