During his first public appearance since his November arrest, former Nissan Chairman Carlos Ghosn appeared in a Tokyo courtroom on Tuesday to rebut the charges that have been levied against him by Tokyo prosecutors as speculation continues to mount that his arrest was the result of an internal coup organized by Nissan CEO Hiroto Saikawa and other restive elements within the Japanese carmaker.
Ghosn, who appeared noticeably thinner following his nearly two-month long period of detention in an austere Tokyo jail cell, offered a 10-minute point-by-point response, claiming he had acted "legally and with executives' approval" and that he never abused Nissan's trust and that he never unjustly shifting trading losses on to the company, according to Nikkei Asian Review.
"I am an innocent of the accusations made against me," Ghosn said in a 10-minute statement in English. "I have been wrongly accused and unfairly detained based on meritless and unsubstantiated accusations."
"Let me say that I have genuine love and appreciation for Nissan," he said. "I have acted honorably, legally and with the knowledge and approval of the appropriate executives inside the company."
Responding to allegations that he used Nissan money to pay off a Saudi Prince who had helped him duck his personal trading losses, Ghosn claimed those payments were for "critical services" rendered.
The executive is also accused of paying a Saudi acquaintance 1.6 billion yen in company funds. He asserted that Khaled Juffali was a "long-time supporter and partner" of the automaker who was "appropriately compensated" for "critical services that substantially benefited Nissan."
Ghosn also claimed that he never received any compensation from Nissan that was not disclosed.
Ghosn also said he kept "a record of the market compensation" for his role, based on offers that he had been made to take the helm at other automakers, but this was done for his own reference and had no legal effect.
"I never received any compensation from Nissan that was not disclosed, nor did I ever enter into any binding contract with Nissan to be paid a fixed amount that was not disclosed," he said.
Ghosn has been arrested three times by Tokyo prosecutors since the scandal erupted. He can be held in detention until Jan. 11. Though his lawyers said they do expect prosecutors to push for another round of charges. If it goes to trial, the process could continue for another six months, and the charges he is facing carry a maximum prison term of ten years.
The hearing was called by Ghosn's attorney last week as Japanese prosecutors mull more charges or another possible extension of Ghosn's detention. Such public proceedings are rarely called - having been exercised in just 0.6% of cases over the past year - suggesting that the hearing was intended to either delay prosecutors or possibly to offer Ghosn a platform to mount a PR defense.