TOKYO (Reuters) - Carlos Ghosn said Nissan executives opposed to his plans for closer ties with automaking partner Renault SA resorted to “plot and treason” to disrupt them and were behind the financial misconduct allegations against him.
Speaking to the Nikkei newspaper in his first media interview since his arrest on Nov. 19, Ghosn said he had discussed plans to integrate the companies with Nissan CEO Hiroto Saikawa in September.
But Nissan executives employed “plot and treason” to uproot those plans, Ghosn said.
Ghosn, who spearheaded Nissan’s turnaround two decades ago, had pushed for a deeper tie-up between Nissan and Renault, including possibly a full merger, despite strong reservations at the Japanese corporation.
He remains in detention following his arrest and indictment on charges related to breach of trust and understating his salary.
His arrest has clouded the outlook for closer ties between Nissan and Renault, along with Mitsubishi Motors Corp, the third member of the automaking alliance
Since his arrest, Saikawa has said it was not the time to discuss revising the partners’ complex capital ties. Nissan and Mitsubishi Motors have dismissed him as chairman, while he has resigned from the helm at Renault.
Ghosn denied accusations of improper payments to a company run by a Saudi businessman, saying the payment had been approved by a Nissan executive.
Ghosn also called accusations by both Nissan and Mitsubishi that he received nearly 8 million euros in improper payment through a Dutch-based joint venture of the two automakers “a distortion of reality”, and argued his luxury residences in Rio de Janeiro and Beirut were approved by Nissan’s legal department.
Nissan has said it was not aware that it had paid for many of Ghosn’s properties. On Wednesday, a spokesman said that the company was unable to comment on Ghosn’s legal defense.
Ghosn, in the 20-minute interview, denied that his tenure at Nissan had been a “dictatorship”.
“People translated strong leadership to dictator, to distort reality” for the “purpose of getting rid of me,” he said.
Ghosn added that his health was fine, and that he wouldn’t flee if freed on bail.
Meanwhile, NHK reported that Saikawa plans to hold his first face-to-face discussion with new Renault Chairman Jean-Dominique Senard on the sidelines of an alliance meeting in the Netherlands on Thursday.
Reporting by Naomi Tajitsu; Editing by Himani Sarkar and Muralikumar Anantharaman