Ghosn says arrest was result of ‘plot and treason’: Nikkei

Chairman and CEO of Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Carlos Ghosn looks on during a visit of French President at the Renault factory, in Maubeuge, northern France. (File/AFP)
Updated 30 January 2019
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Ghosn says arrest was result of ‘plot and treason’: Nikkei

  • Ghosn had “no doubt” that the charges against him were motivated by Nissan executives opposed to greater integration of the firm with its French alliance partner Renault
  • Ghosn faces three separate charges, all of which he denies

TOKYO: Detained auto tycoon Carlos Ghosn believes his arrest and the charges against him are the result of a “plot and treason” at his former employer Nissan, he told the Nikkei newspaper Wednesday.
The Japanese business daily quoted Ghosn as saying he had “no doubt” that the charges against him were motivated by Nissan executives opposed to greater integration of the firm with its French alliance partner Renault.
It was the first press interview Ghosn has given since his stunning arrest on November 19, conducted in the Tokyo detention center where he has languished ever since.
A Nissan spokesman hit back immediately, saying that current CEO Hiroto Saikawa has “already categorically refuted the notion of a ‘coup d’etat’.”
“The sole cause of this chain of events is the misconduct led by Ghosn and (chief of staff Greg) Kelly,” the spokesman added.
He said a Nissan probe had uncovered “substantial and convincing evidence of misconduct” and that the firm’s focus is “firmly on addressing the weaknesses in governance” that allowed this misconduct to happen.
The 64-year-old Ghosn has been denied bail several times, with the court considering him a flight risk and concerned he could attempt to destroy evidence.
But he again stressed that he “won’t flee. I will defend (myself),” according to the Nikkei.
“All the evidence is with Nissan and Nissan forbids all employees to talk to me,” he added.
Even his own lawyer has said it is unlikely he will be released before a trial, which could take up to six months to organize given the complexity of the case.
Ghosn faces three separate charges, all of which he denies. He stands accused of under-reporting his income between 2010 and 2015 to the tune of five billion yen ($46 billion) and continuing to do so for a further three years.
He also stands accused of a complex scheme to try to pass off personal foreign exchange losses to Nissan and using company funds to reimburse a Saudi contact who stumped up collateral for him.
He said the payment to this businessman, Khaled Juffali, had been signed by “four officers.”
The executive, once feted for his turnaround of the struggling Nissan, has been removed as chairman of the Japanese firm as well as of Mitsubishi Motors. He has also resigned as chairman and chief executive of French company Renault.
He told the Nikkei there was a plan to “integrate” the three companies but insisted it was intended to ensure there would be “autonomy under one holding company.”
After Ghosn’s arrest, Saikawa referred to the “dark side” of his former mentor’s tenure and accused him of having accrued too much power.
But Ghosn rejected the characterization of his tenure as a “dictatorship.”
“People translated strong leadership to dictator, to distort reality,” he told the Nikkei. They did so, he added, for the “purpose of getting rid of me.”
Another accusation against him revolves around some $9 million allegedly paid to him from a joint venture based in The Netherlands but Ghosn rejected this, saying the claims of improper payments were “a distortion of reality.”
He has also come under fire for luxury houses in Rio de Janeiro and Beirut — which Nissan alleges were paid for improperly via a subsidiary.
He justified these residences on the grounds that he “needed a safe place where (he) can work and receive people in both Brazil and Lebanon.”
He stressed that the purchases were approved by the legal department.
Asked about his conditions in the detention center, Ghosn replied that the situation was “up and down” but said his health was “fine.”
Family members have said his detention conditions are overly difficult and even French President Emmanuel Macron has criticized them as “harsh.”


Protests in Bangladesh after girl is burned to death

Updated 25 min 48 sec ago
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Protests in Bangladesh after girl is burned to death

  • Nusrat Jahan Rafi told her family she was lured to the roof of her rural school in the town of Feni on April 6 and asked to withdraw the charges by five people clad in burqas
  • The violence has shaken Bangladesh, triggering protests and raising concerns over the plight of women and girls in the conservative nation of 160 million people

DHAKA, Bangladesh: Dozens of protesters gathered in Bangladesh’s capital on Friday to demand justice for an 18-year-old woman who died after being set on fire for refusing to drop sexual harassment charges against her Islamic school’s principal.
Nusrat Jahan Rafi told her family she was lured to the roof of her rural school in the town of Feni on April 6 and asked to withdraw the charges by five people clad in burqas. When she refused, she said her hands were tied and she was doused in kerosene and set alight.
Rafi told the story to her brother in an ambulance on the way to the hospital and he recorded her testimony on his mobile phone. She died four days later in a Dhaka hospital with burns covering 80% of her body.
The violence has shaken Bangladesh, triggering protests and raising concerns over the plight of women and girls in the conservative Muslim-majority nation of 160 million people where sexual harassment and violence are often unreported, victims are intimidated and the legal process is often lengthy. Many avoid reporting to police because of social stigma.
“We want justice. Our girls must grow up safely and with dignity,” Alisha Pradhan, a model and actress, told The Associated Press during Friday’s demonstration. “We protest any forms of violence against women, and authorities must ensure justice.”
Tens of thousands of people attended Rafi’s funeral prayers in Feni, and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina promised Rafi’s family when they met in Dhaka that those responsible would be punished.
At least 17 people, including students, have been arrested in connection with the case, said Banaj Kumar Majumder, the head of the Police Bureau of Investigation.
In late March, Rafi filed a complaint with police that the principal of her madrasa, or Islamic school, had called her into his office and touched her inappropriately and repeatedly. Her family agreed to help her to file the police complaint, which prompted police to arrest the principal, infuriating him and his supporters. Influential local politicians backed the principal, and ruling party members were also among the arrested.
Police said the arrested suspects told them during interrogations that the attack on Rafi was planned and ordered by the school’s principal from prison when his men went to see him. It was timed for daytime so that it would look like a suicide attempt, Majumder said.
Human Rights Watch said in a statement that Rafi’s family said that they had received death threats before the attack telling them to drop the case.
While Rafi’s case is now being treated with urgency, that wasn’t the case until her death.
A video taken on March 27 while Rafi reported the assault shows the local police chief registering her complaint but telling her that the incident was “not a big deal.” The chief was later removed from the police station for negligence in dealing with the case.
For Bangladeshi women, it is often not easy to file sensitive complaints with police. Victims often fear further harassment and bullying. Police also often show an unwillingness to investigate such cases and are often accused of being influenced by local politics or bribes.
But the call for dealing with violence against women, especially related to sexual harassment and assault, is also getting louder.
“The horrifying murder of a brave woman who sought justice shows how badly the Bangladesh government has failed victims of sexual assault,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Nusrat Jahan Rafi’s death highlights the need for the Bangladesh government to take survivors of sexual assault seriously and ensure that they can safely seek a legal remedy and be protected from retaliation.”