Ghosn lawyers rebut new Nissan claims against fugitive exec

Business

FILE – In this Oct. 24, 2019, file photo, Junichiro Hironaka, a lawyer of former Nissan Chairman Carlos Ghosn, attends a press conference in Tokyo. Hironaka, one of the Japanese lawyers for former Nissan Chairman Carlos Ghosn has stepped down from that job after Ghosn fled the country. His move, announced Thursday, Jan. 16, 2020, was widely expected after Ghosn fled to Lebanon late last month. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara, File)

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TOKYO (AP) — The legal team of Nissan’s former chairman Carlos Ghosn issued a statement Friday refuting the latest allegations by the Japanese automaker against the fugitive businessman.

Nissan Motor Co. on Thursday filed a new set of allegations to the Tokyo Stock Exchange against Ghosn, who skipped bail and fled to Lebanon, saying he could not get a fair trial in Japan.

The lawyers said that Nissan’s complaints were biased and that it never questioned Ghosn about them. They also said Nissan never tried to interview Ghosn or Greg Kelly, another former executive facing charges of financial misconduct, or “bothered to solicit their knowledge of the facts.”

His lawyers also complained that Latham & Watkins, which conducted the investigation, had long been Nissan’s outside counsel.

Nissan confirmed both were true, but denied there was any conflict of interest. The company said it considered it inappropriate to contact Ghosn or Kelly because the company and they were co-defendants.

Ghosn’s legal team also complained that Nissan waited for months to investigate Ghosn’s successor, former Nissan Chief Executive Hiroto Saikawa, and only after Kelly publicly raised concerns.

Saikawa resigned last year over allegations about dubious income. He has not been charged.

“This report confirms that Nissan’s investigation was biased, lacked integrity and independence, and was designed and executed for the predetermined purpose of taking out Carlos Ghosn,” the lawyers said in a statement.

Both Ghosn and Kelly say they are innocent.

Ghosn was charged with under-reporting his future compensation and breach of trust in diverting Nissan money for personal gain. He says the compensation was never decided on or paid, and the payments were for legitimate business.

Kelly is accused of helping Ghosn underreport his income.

Yokohama-based Nissan says Ghosn “single-handedly” decided on his compensation. It has promised to beef up corporate governance since the arrest of Ghosn in November 2018.

Japan and Lebanon do not have an extradition treaty. Experts say it is virtually impossible to continue Ghosn’s trial in Japan. Kelly and Nissan as a company are still expected to stand trial.

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Yuri Kageyama on Twitter https://twitter.com/yurikageyama

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