Defiant Ghosn pins hopes on French probes to clear his name

Defiant Ghosn pins hopes on French probes to clear his name
Nissan's former chairman Carlos Ghosn arrives for a press conference in Beirut, Lebanon. (AP)
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Updated 26 May 2021

Defiant Ghosn pins hopes on French probes to clear his name

Defiant Ghosn pins hopes on French probes to clear his name
  • In an interview with The Associated Press, the embattled former chairman of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance dissected his legal troubles in Japan, France and the Netherlands

BEIRUT: Auto magnate-turned-fugitive Carlos Ghosn is campaigning to clear his name, and hopes a visit by French investigators to his home in exile in Lebanon will be his first real opportunity to defend himself since the bombshell arrest that transformed him from a visionary to a prisoner overnight.
In an interview with The Associated Press, the embattled former chairman of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance dissected his legal troubles in Japan, France and the Netherlands, detailed how he plotted his brazen escape from Osaka, and reflected on his new reality in crisis-hit Lebanon, where he is stuck for the foreseeable future.
Mending his reputation will be an arduous task. Ghosn was arrested in Japan in November 2018 on accusations of financial misconduct and fled to Lebanon a year later. He now faces multiple legal challenges in France after the Japanese accusations triggered scrutiny of his activities there. Meanwhile, several associates are in jail or on trial in Japan and Turkey, in cases related to his financial activities or escape.
“There has been a lot of collateral damage . . . but I don’t think I’m responsible for that. The people responsible for that are the people who organized the plot” to bring him down, Ghosn said Tuesday.
Ghosn has denied accusations of underreporting his compensation and misusing company funds, contending he was the victim of a corporate coup linked to a decline in Nissan Motor Co.’s financial performance as the Japanese automaker resisted losing autonomy to French partner Renault.
He said he voluntarily agreed to undergo days of questioning in Beirut next week by French magistrates investigating allegations of financial misconduct in France that led to the seizure of millions of euros of his assets. The outcome could result in preliminary charges being handed to him or in the cases being dropped.
The French investigators are looking into the financing of lavish parties Ghosn threw at the Versailles chateau — complete with period costumes and copious Champagne — as well as €11 million in spending on private planes and events arranged by a Dutch holding company, and subsidies to a car dealership in Oman. Ghosn denies any wrongdoing.
“In Japan, you had a Japanese person interrogating me, writing in Japanese and wanting me to sign things in Japanese that I don’t understand,” he said. “Now I will be speaking in French, and I’ll have my lawyers present. Of course, I have much more confidence in the French legal system than in the Japanese system.”
Ghosn was kept in solitary confinement in Japan for months without being allowed to speak with his wife. He has said he fled the country after it became clear he would have “zero” chances of a fair trial. His arrest drew international scrutiny and criticism of Japan’s legal system and its 99 percent conviction rate.
In late 2019, Ghosn fled Japan after jumping $14 million bail in a Hollywood-style caper. The improbable escape — hidden in a box stashed in the hold of a Turkey-bound private jet, according to Japanese officials — embarrassed Japanese authorities and has allowed him to evade trial there.
Now an international fugitive on Interpol’s most-wanted list, the 67-year-old Ghosn lives in self-imposed exile in his native Lebanon, where he teaches a weekly university business course and is fighting other legal fires.
He told the AP he was “shocked” after a Dutch court last week rejected his wrongful dismissal claim against an Amsterdam-based alliance between Nissan and Mitsubishi, and ordered him to repay the nearly €5 million ($6 million) salary he received in 2018. The ruling came in a case in which Ghosn sought to have his 2018 sacking from Nissan-Mitsubishi B.V. overturned and demanded €15 million ($16.5 million) in compensation.
Ghosn has vowed to appeal.
Ghosn, who has French, Brazilian and Lebanese citizenship, contended he was the victim of a character assassination campaign led by Nissan with the complicity of the Japanese government, aided by accomplices in France.
In the AP interview, he mounted a robust defense of a former Nissan executive, American Greg Kelly, who was arrested the same day as Ghosn and is standing trial in a Tokyo District court on charges of under-reporting Ghosn’s compensation. He would not talk about two other Americans who allegedly helped him escape, Michael Taylor and his son, Peter. They are in a Japanese jail awaiting trial after their extradition from the US
Asked whether their legal troubles weighed on his conscience, Ghosn said: “I feel empathy and compassion for them, because I was in the same situation.”
Testimony and documents presented at Kelly’s trial have shown that he sought ways to beef up compensation for Ghosn after he agreed to a pay cut at Nissan in 2010, because Japan began requiring disclosures of high executive pay. Ghosn insisted Tuesday that no additional compensation agreements were approved by the board.
“Obviously he (Kelly) is innocent,” Ghosn said.
Recalling details of his escape, Ghosn told the AP how the plan was hatched, including choosing to execute it in December when he would be less likely to be recognized under a hat and heavy clothes.
“It was very bold, but because it was bold, I thought it may be successful,” he said. Ghosn refused to confirm reports he escaped in a musical instrument box, saying he didn’t want to say anything that could be used against people being prosecuted for assisting him.
Arriving in a black Nissan SUV accompanied by a bodyguard, the former high-flying executive seemed to have lost none of his swagger despite his colossal fall. He said he spends his days in Beirut preparing his legal defense, teaching, helping startups and working on his books and documentaries.
As a fugitive living in the Mediterranean country where he grew up, he said he was enjoying a slower pace devoid of jet lag, enjoying having coffee with his wife and extensive talks with his children.
That includes living in a deeply unstable country in the grips of a historic financial and economic unraveling. Ghosn said he spent six months repairing his home after it was damaged in the massive explosion at a Beirut port last summer. And like other Lebanese, he said he has a substantial amount of money stuck in the banks after authorities clamped down on dollar currency withdrawals and transfers in October 2019.
Reflecting on his downfall, he said, “It’s like you have, you know, I don’t know, a heart attack somewhere, or you’ve been hit by a bus. You change your life.”
“All of a sudden, you are in a completely different reality and you have to adapt to this reality.”


Saudi Arabia sees record IPOs requests, 50% rise in managed assets, says CMA chief

Saudi Arabia sees record IPOs requests, 50% rise in managed assets, says CMA chief
Updated 03 August 2021

Saudi Arabia sees record IPOs requests, 50% rise in managed assets, says CMA chief

Saudi Arabia sees record IPOs requests, 50% rise in managed assets, says CMA chief
  • Elkuwaiz says assets under management by financial institutions have increased by 50 percent

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia is seeing a record interests from companies to sell shares to the public, while the size of the assets under management by financial institutions increased by 50 percent to SR600 billion over 3 years, the chairman of the country’s capital market authority said.

The increase in the volume of assets under management (AUM) had impact on the financial market and has contributed to opening new investments areas such as the launch of financial derivatives market, which made a debut last year, Mohammed Elkuwaiz said in panel hosted by the Financial Academy.

The authority received recently 30 requests to sell shares in initial public offerings and this is the highest number the authority, known as CMA, got since its establishment, he added. 

Mohammed Elkuwaiz, CMA chairman

Saudi Arabia is implementing a huge program to modernize and develop its financial sector under the country’s vision 2030 plan. Under this program the CMA had a target to list 20 new companies in 2021 on the Saudi index through public offerings, and the authority had achieved half of this target by the end of the first half of the year, Elkuawiz said.

Interests from companies to sell shares to the public increased over the past few years with the introduction of the parallel market, known as Nomu. Elkuwaiz explained that the main market, Tadawul, targets larger and more mature companies with the ability and willingness to bear big loads in terms of disclosure data, governance, while smaller companies prefer to list on Nomu.

“Listing on Nomu is an exciting window for the small and medium size and entrepreneurs in Saudi Arabia as we see the increase in IPOs interest and this is the result of the CMA strategy,” said Mohammed Ramady, an independent economic analyst and former senior banker told the Arab News in comments on Saudi financial development.

Another area where Saudi Arabia is venturing and advancing is Fintech. “We have more than 15 companies licensed as financial technology companies, which facilitates the availability of other types of financing that did not exist in the past, such as crowdfunding, which has become a boost for the financial market,” Elkuwaiz added.

The chairman of CMA also noted that foreign investments in the Saudi stock market have been positive and steady since they were allowed several years ago, with more than SR20 billion has entered Tadawul market since it was included in global indexes.

“The system of governance and disclosure in the financial market has been developed, making the Kingdom one of the world’s top 4 countries in terms of governance – something we are very proud of,” he added.


Fitch revises Egyptian bank’s outlook to stable

Fitch revises Egyptian bank’s outlook to stable
Updated 03 August 2021

Fitch revises Egyptian bank’s outlook to stable

Fitch revises Egyptian bank’s outlook to stable

RIYADH: Fitch Ratings has revised Commercial International Bank (Egypt) S.A.E.’s (CIB) outlook to stable from negative while affirming the bank’s long-term issuer default rating at “B+” and viability rating at “b+.” 

According to the ratings firm, pressures on the domestic environment have eased since the end of the third quarter of 2020 moderating downside risks to Egyptian banks’ credit profiles.

It said this reflects improving foreign currency liquidity, with the banking sector’s net foreign assets reaching $3.5 billion in April 2021, a reversal of a net foreign liability position of $5.3 billion at the end of April 2020. This was supported by a strong increase in foreign holdings of Egyptian treasuries to $29 billion in May 2021.

Fitch expects real GDP growth to accelerate to 6 percent in 2022.


Egypt’s domestic liquidity exceeds $213.9 billion

Egypt’s domestic liquidity exceeds $213.9 billion
Updated 02 August 2021

Egypt’s domestic liquidity exceeds $213.9 billion

Egypt’s domestic liquidity exceeds $213.9 billion

CAIRO: Egypt’s domestic liquidity rose to EGP 5.36 trillion ($213.9 billion) at the end of June 2021.

According to the official data, liquidity grew by 1.9 percent monthly. Domestic liquidity increased by 18.3 percent annually, compared to EGP 4.53 trillion in June 2020.

The money supply rose during June to EGP 1.25 trillion, compared to EGP 1.22 trillion in May 2021.  Money supply includes deposits in local currency and cash in circulation outside the banking system.

Last November, the Central Bank of Egypt decided to reduce both the overnight deposit and lending rate and its main operation rate by 50 basis points, to 8.25 percent, 9.25 percent, and 8.75 percent, respectively.

Last month, the central bank froze the interest rate for the fourth time this year.


Saudi Arabia reiterates its commitment to fight climate change

Saudi Energy Minister Abdulaziz Bin Salman. (REUTERS file photo)
Saudi Energy Minister Abdulaziz Bin Salman. (REUTERS file photo)
Updated 02 August 2021

Saudi Arabia reiterates its commitment to fight climate change

Saudi Energy Minister Abdulaziz Bin Salman. (REUTERS file photo)
  • Prince Abdul Aziz and Sharma discussed the framework of the circular carbon economy adopted by G20 leaders during Saudi Arabia’s presidency in 2020

RIYADH: Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdul Aziz bin Salman recently held a meeting with COP26 President-designate Alok Sharma and discussed ways to enhance cooperation in confronting global climate change.
The Saudi minister highlighted the Kingdom’s qualitative initiatives to help reduce emissions and preserve the environment, foremost of which are the Saudi Green and Middle East Green initiatives.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman launched these initiatives on March 27. These initiatives are aimed at reducing carbon emissions in the region by 60 percent through the use of clean hydrocarbon technologies and the planting of 50 billion trees, including 10 billion in Saudi Arabia.
The “green” initiatives, which are part of the Vision 2030 strategy, will place Saudi Arabia at the center of regional efforts to meet international targets on climate change mitigation, as well as help it achieve its own goals.
Prince Abdul Aziz and Sharma also discussed the framework of the circular carbon economy adopted by G20 leaders during Saudi Arabia’s presidency in 2020.
While the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region has long been a leading global supplier of fossil fuels, renewables are complementing its own energy mix, offering eco-friendly alternatives such as clean hydrogen fuel to decarbonize and reduce gas emissions.
With around 70 to 90 percent of the Arabian Peninsula facing the threat of desertification, owing to past and ongoing human activities, massive afforestation, and land restoration initiatives hold hope for millions of hectares of degraded land.
Unfortunately, in a G20 meeting held in Italian city, Naples on July 22-23, energy and environment ministers failed to agree on the wording of key climate change commitments in their final communique after China and India refused to give way on two key points.
One of these was phasing out coal power, which most countries wanted to achieve by 2025 but some said would be impossible for them.
The other concerned the wording surrounding a 1.5-2 degree Celsius limit on global temperature increases that was set by the 2015 Paris Agreement.
Average global temperatures have already risen by more than 1 degree compared to the pre-industrial baseline used by scientists and are on track to exceed the 1.5-2 degree ceiling.
“Some countries wanted to go faster than what was agreed in Paris and to aim to cap temperatures at 1.5 degrees within a decade, but others, with more carbon-based economies, said let’s just stick to what was agreed in Paris,” said Italy’s Ecological Transition Minister Roberto Cingolani.
The G20 meeting was seen as a decisive step ahead of United Nations climate talks, known as COP26, which take place in 100 days’ time in Glasgow in November.


Saudis seek European partners to expand space program

Saudi Minister of Communications and Information Technology Abdullah Al-Swaha met the French Ambassador for Digital Affairs Henri Verdier. (SPA)
Saudi Minister of Communications and Information Technology Abdullah Al-Swaha met the French Ambassador for Digital Affairs Henri Verdier. (SPA)
Updated 03 August 2021

Saudis seek European partners to expand space program

Saudi Minister of Communications and Information Technology Abdullah Al-Swaha met the French Ambassador for Digital Affairs Henri Verdier. (SPA)
  • Al-Swaha met COO of French National Center for Space Studies to discuss potential for partnerships in the research and scientific fields

RIYADH: Saudi officials in charge of developing the country’s space program are now traveling around Europe seeking partnerships with leading companies in a sign that the Kingdom is putting the program up on its agenda.
The chairman of the board of directors of the Saudi Space Commission, Abdullah Alswaha, met in Paris on Monday with the head of Space Systems at Airbus, Jean-Marc Nasr, CEO of the Communications and Systems Group Eric Blanc, and the chairman of the board of directors of the Himmeria Group, Philippe Gautier, the Saudi Press Agency reported.
This came as part of Alswaha’s visit to the French Republic to enhance cooperation between the two countries in the field of space, it added.
The Saudi delegation also visited Britain on Friday, to enhance potential cooperation in innovation and space economy between the two countries, and build partnerships in the telecommunications sectors. Around 80 British companies in relevant fields attended the meeting with the Saudi delegation in London, SPA reported.
The Saudi delegation to London also reviewed available investment opportunities, the competitive advantages that the Kingdom enjoys as a digital and logistical platform and a hub for connecting continents, and the possibilities in the field of research, development, innovation and the space economy.