Nissan's ex-chair Ghosn appears in court, asserts innocence

Nissan's ex-chair Ghosn appears in court, asserts innocence

Despite all demands to give Ghosn a fair shake, President Emmanuel Macron has been at odds with the executive and with Nissan since obtaining greater government control over Renault as economy minister a few years ago.

Before the hearing, the Khaled Juffali Company issued a statement saying the $14.7 million in payments over four years from Nissan "were for legitimate business purposes in order to support and promote Nissan's business strategy in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and included reimbursement for business expenses".

Ghosn added that if he died today - what he described as the "Death Test" - Nissan would not be required to pay his heirs anything but his retirement allowance, which he said showed there was no binding committment for additional pay.

But a judge said incarcerating Mr Ghosn was justified to prevent possible evidence-tampering and the risk that he might flee.

He was handcuffed with a rope around his waist.

According to a statement released before the hearing to some media, including The Associated Press, by people familiar with the case, Ghosn said he had "acted honourably, legally and with the knowledge and approval of the appropriate executives inside the company with the sole goal of supporting and strengthening Nissan".

Regarding allegations that he transferred losses to Nissan, Ghosn said he had asked the company to temporarily take on collateral for his foreign exchange contracts.

The people who released the statement requested anonymity because of the matters' confidentiality.

Khaled Juffali Company issued a statement "to help set the record straight", saying the $14.7 million United States in payments over four years from Nissan "were for legitimate business purposes in order to support and promote Nissan's business strategy in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and included reimbursement for business expenses".

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If proven, each of Ghosn's alleged offences may carry a sentence of as much as 10 years, prosecutors have said.

"Contrary to the accusations made by the prosecutors, I never received any compensation from Nissan that was not disclosed", his statement said.

His son, Anthony Ghosn, said his father had lost 10 kgs (22 pounds) during his detention, according to France's weekly Journal du Dimanche.

He forged an unlikely three-way alliance between Mitsubishi Motors, Renault and Nissan that now outsells any other rival group.

Renault owns 43 per cent of Nissan, while Nissan owns 15 per cent of Renault. His arrest has shaken the world's largest auto pact, amid speculation it was part of a coup by forces within Nissan aimed at staving off a merger of the carmakers.

Ghosn is expected to remain in detention through his trial.

The shocking arrest and detention of the businessman, who remains chairman and CEO of Nissan's alliance partner, Renault SA, has sparked criticism overseas of Japan's justice system, which effectively allows suspects to be held indefinitely and questioned without a lawyer present.

A whopping 1,122 tickets were handed out on Tuesday in a lottery to attend Mr Ghosn's hearing - about 80 times oversubscribed - for the 14 public seats available in the courtroom gallery. No cameras or audio recordings are allowed to document Japanese court sessions.

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