Ghosn to reveal who he blames for arrest in Japan: wife

Former Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn, left, and his wife Carole leave the office of his lawyer Junichiro Hironaka in Tokyo on April 3, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 07 April 2019
0

Ghosn to reveal who he blames for arrest in Japan: wife

  • Former Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn was re-arrested last week in Japan over fresh allegations of financial misconduct
  • Carole Ghosn has flown to Paris to try to pressure the French government to do more for her husband

PARIS: Arrested former Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn is set to name the people he believes are responsible for his downfall in Japan, his wife said in an interview on Sunday as she fled Tokyo out of fear she could be detained.
Ghosn was re-arrested last week in the Japanese capital over fresh allegations of financial misconduct which will see him held in custody until at least April 14.
Speaking to the Journal du Dimanche newspaper in France, his wife Carole detailed the latest twists in the extraordinary saga, saying that Ghosn had recorded a video interview in English before his detention.
“He names the people responsible for what has happened to him. The lawyers have it. It will be released soon,” she told the newspaper.
Carole added that she had fled Tokyo on a flight to Paris — with support from the French ambassador to Tokyo — because she “felt in danger.”
Despite her Lebanese passport being confiscated by Japanese authorities, Carole said she was able to use her American passport to board a flight and was accompanied by the ambassador to the airport.
“He didn’t leave me until the plane,” she explained. “Up to the last second, I didn’t know if they were going to let me fly. It was surreal.”
The role of the French ambassador could lead to fresh friction between the countries over the highly sensitive case, which involves Nissan and French car maker Renault, which were both previously run by Ghosn.
Japanese news channel NHK said prosecutors in Tokyo wanted to question Carole on a voluntary basis.
Other reports in Japan say that investigators are looking into allegations that company money allegedly misused by Ghosn could have transited through a business that was run by his wife.
Carole intends now to try to pressure the French government to do more for her husband whose 108-day imprisonment in Japan between November 19 and March 6 had left him a “different person,” she told The Financial Times in a separate interview.
France’s foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Saturday he had raised the case during talks with his Japanese counterpart Taro Kono on the sidelines of the meeting of Group of Seven (G7) foreign ministers in the French resort of Dinard.
Le Drian said he had “reminded him of our attachment to the presumption of innocence and the full rights of consular protection.”
Japanese authorities are looking into new allegations that Ghosn transferred some $15 million in Nissan funds between late 2015 and mid-2018 to a dealership in Oman.
They suspect around $5 million of these funds were siphoned off for Ghosn’s use, including for the purchase of a luxury yacht and financing personal investments.
Prosecutors say Ghosn “betrayed” his duty not to cause losses to Nissan “in order to benefit himself.”
Ghosn denies the allegations and says he is also innocent of the three formal charges he faces: two charges of deferring his salary and concealing that in official shareholders’ documents, and a further charge related to investment losses.
The man previously seen as the most powerful figure in the global car industry told French channel TF1 last week that he was “a combative man and an innocent man” and vowed to “defend myself to the bitter end.”
And he voiced concern that he would not be given a fair hearing in Japan where around 99 percent of trials result in a conviction.


Bitcoin craze hits Iran as US sanctions squeeze weak economy

Updated 18 July 2019
0

Bitcoin craze hits Iran as US sanctions squeeze weak economy

  • Some Iranian officials worry that “mining” is abusing the subsidized electricity
  • Iranian Bitcoin miners are purchasing more affordable Chinese ready-made computers

TEHRAN: Iranians feeling the squeeze from US sanctions targeting the Islamic Republic’s ailing economy are increasingly turning to such digital currencies as Bitcoin to make money, prompting alarm in and out of the country.
In Iran, some government officials worry that the energy-hungry process of “mining” Bitcoin is abusing Iran’s system of subsidized electricity; in the United States, some observers have warned that cryptocurrencies could be used to bypass the Trump administration’s sanctions targeting Iran over its unraveling nuclear deal with world powers.
The Bitcoin craze has made the front pages of Iranian newspapers and been discussed by some of the country’s top ayatollahs, and there have been televised police raids on hidden computer farms set up to bring in money by “mining” the currency.
Like other digital currencies, Bitcoin is an alternative to money printed by sovereign governments around the world. Unlike those bills, however, cryptocurrencies are not controlled by a central bank. Bitcoin and other digital currencies like it trade globally in highly speculative markets without any backing from a physical entity.
As a result, computers around the world “mine” the data, meaning they use highly complex algorithms to verify transactions. The verified transactions, called blocks, are then added to a public record, known as the blockchain. Any time “miners” add a new block to the blockchain, they are rewarded with a payment in bitcoins.
To work, the expensive specialized computers require a lot of electricity to power their processors and to keep them cool. In Iran, “miners” have an edge because electricity is cheap thanks to longtime government subsidies. “Miners” also buy cheaper Chinese ready-made computers to do the work.
But the constant raids and authorities’ conflicting statements on the issue have Bitcoin “miners” in Iran incredibly leery of being identified. Those contacted by The Associated Press refused to speak about their work or to say how much they earn from their “mining.”
But they acknowledge they do this to make some money at a time when Iran’s currency, the rial, tumbled from 32,000 rials to $1 at the time of the 2015 nuclear deal, to around 120,000 rials to $1 now.
“It is clear that here has turned into a heaven for ‘miners,’” Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi, Iran’s minister for information and communications technology, recently told AP in an interview. “The business of ‘mining’ is not forbidden in law but the government and the Central Bank have ordered the Customs Bureau to ban the import of (mining machines) until new regulations are introduced.”
Ali Bakhshi, the head of the Iran Electrical Industry Syndicate, said earlier this month that the country’s Energy Ministry likely would boost costs for Bitcoin “miners” to 7 cents for each kilowatt of electricity they consume, a massive increase from the current half-cent but still almost half the cost of electricity in the United States, according to the semi-official Fars news agency.
Still, there are concerns, especially among Iran’s religious leaders, that people might try to circumvent paying extra for the electricity as well as using digital currency to hide or move money illicitly.
Tabnak, a hard-line news website associated with a former commander of the country’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard, quoted three ayatollahs describing Bitcoin as either problematic or “haram,” meaning forbidden. Islam prescribes strict rules about finance.
But Jahromi said clerics became more receptive to the idea after his staff briefed them that Bitcoin had a value in the real world, which is required under Islamic finance. Islamic finance also prohibits gambling, the payment of interest and misleading others.
“Some of our top clerics have issued fatwas that say Bitcoin is money without a reserve, that it is rejected by Islamic and cybercurrencies are haram,” Jahromi said. “When we explain to them this is not a currency but an asset, they change their mind.”
Iran has tried to keep its economic situation in check by controlling foreign currency rates and cutting down on those moving their money from the rial to other currencies, including Bitcoin. Last year, the semi-official Mehr news agency quoted Mohammad Reza Pour-Ebrahimi, the head of the Iranian parliament’s economic commission, as suggesting that about $2.5 billion left Iran through digital currency purchases. He did not elaborate and authorities have not discussed it since.
The US, meanwhile, has been keeping a close watch on Iranians holding bitcoins. In November, a federal grand jury in Newark, New Jersey, accused two Iranian men of hacking and holding hostage computer systems of over 200 American entities to extort them for Bitcoin, including the cities of Newark and Atlanta.
“As Iran becomes increasingly isolated and desperate for access to US dollars, it is vital that virtual currency exchanges, peer-to-peer exchangers and other providers of digital currency services harden their networks against these illicit schemes,” said Sigal Mandelker, Treasury’s undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence.
Not so, said Jahromi.
“Cybercurrencies are effective in bypassing sanctions when it comes to small transactions, but we do not see any special impact in them as far as mega-transactions are concerned,” he said. “We cannot use them to go around international monetary mechanisms.”