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 finance minister issues license for STC bank and Saudi digital bank, both under establishment: cabinet statement

Saudi finance minister issues license for STC bank and Saudi digital bank, both under establishment: cabinet statement
Updated 14 min 40 sec ago

Saudi finance minister issues license for STC bank and Saudi digital bank, both under establishment: cabinet statement

Saudi finance minister issues license for STC bank and Saudi digital bank, both under establishment: cabinet statement

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s finance minister has issued the necessary license for STC bank and Saudi digital bank, both under establishment, the Saudi cabinet said in a statement on Tuesday.

Developing...


Saudi Central Bank extends SME deferred payment program another 3 months

Saudi Central Bank extends SME deferred payment program another 3 months
Updated 22 June 2021

Saudi Central Bank extends SME deferred payment program another 3 months

Saudi Central Bank extends SME deferred payment program another 3 months
  • Program aims to support small and medium-sized enterprises still struggling due to the pandemic
  • More than 106,000 contracts have benefited since it was launched in March 2020 with a value of approximately SR167 billion

RIYADH: The Saudi Central Bank (SAMA) announced on Tuesday that it is extending a deferred payment program for a second time to help support small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that are still struggling during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
SAMA said the program — one of the bank’s initiatives to support private sector financing — will be extended for another three months from July 1 through Sept. 30.
The move is part of SAMA’s role in maintaining the stability of the financial sector, enabling it to promote economic growth and maintain employment levels in the private sector, especially within micro enterprises and other SMEs.
More than 106,000 contracts have benefited from the program since it was launched in March 2020 while the value of the deferred payments for those contracts has amounted to approximately SR167 billion ($44.5 billion).
SAMA has also offered a secured financing program for SMEs as more than 5,282 contracts have benefited from that program with a total financing value of more than SR10 billion, the bank said in a statement.
These programs are meant to support the private sector and the levels of liquidity in the financial sector. They enable financing agencies to provide support while mitigating the economic and financial effects on the SME sector, the bank said.
This is the second time SAMA has extended the two programs to support SMEs. It renewed the deferred payment program for three months last March, while it also extended the guaranteed financing program for an additional year until March 14, 2022.


Beirut is the world’s third most expensive city for expats

Beirut is the world’s third most expensive city for expats
Updated 22 June 2021

Beirut is the world’s third most expensive city for expats

Beirut is the world’s third most expensive city for expats
  • Living in the Lebanese capital as an expat has now become more expensive than living in Tokyo, Zurich, or Shanghai

DUBAI: Beirut has become the most expensive city for expats in the Middle East and North Africa region, and the third globally, based on the latest “Cost of Living” survey by consultancy Mercer.
Jumping 42 places in global rankings, Beirut has been at the center of Lebanon’s economic and political collapse, aggravated by the COVID-19 pandemic and the port explosion last year.
Living in the Lebanese capital as an expat has now become more expensive than living in Tokyo, Zurich, or Shanghai. Turkmenistan’s Ashgabat ranked first, in the list of most expensive cities for expatriates, followed by Hong Kong.
Mercer comes up with the annual list by comparing the cost of more than 200 items in each city, including housing, transportation, food, clothing, household goods and entertainment.
Riyadh has become the most expensive city in the Gulf at 29th globally. Jeddah ranked 94th, the report showed.
Dubai dropped to 42nd in the list, down from 23rd last year, and Abu Dhabi ranked 56th from 39th a year earlier.
Other cities in the Gulf also became more affordable this year, the report revealed, with Bahrain dropping to 71st from 52nd, while Muscat fell to 108th from 96th. Kuwait City dropped two places to 115th and Qatar at 21 places to 130th.


Dubai government agency first to approve job titles for remote work

Dubai government agency first to approve job titles for remote work
Updated 22 June 2021

Dubai government agency first to approve job titles for remote work

Dubai government agency first to approve job titles for remote work
  • Remote work can now be done under normal circumstances, the department said

DUBAI: Dubai Municipality has become the first government agency in the UAE to approve job titles for remote work, state news agency WAM has reported.
Remote work can now be done under normal circumstances, the department said, parallel to its other work setups such as its shifting system.
The move comes as the COVID-19 pandemic has made private, and even public, workplaces rethink ways to continue their operations despite the crisis.
Workplace innovation is not new to Dubai Municipality, as it pioneered flexible work systems for government departments in the UAE in 2007.
The pandemic has also made the municipality accelerate its smart transformation, to make the remote work system effective.


Mubadala-owned GlobalFoundries invests $6bn amid worldwide chip shortage

Mubadala-owned GlobalFoundries invests $6bn amid worldwide chip shortage
Updated 22 June 2021

Mubadala-owned GlobalFoundries invests $6bn amid worldwide chip shortage

Mubadala-owned GlobalFoundries invests $6bn amid worldwide chip shortage
  • Tuesday’s expansion is in addition to the company’s previously announced plan to invest $1.4 billion in 2021 alone to expand its manufacturing capacity

SINGAPORE: Chipmaker GlobalFoundries said on Tuesday it will spend $6 billion to expand capacity at its factories in Singapore, Germany and the United States amid a chip shortage that is hurting automakers and electronics firms globally.
The US-based company, owned by Abu Dhabi’s state-owned fund Mubadala, said it will invest more than $4 billion in Singapore, and $1 billion each in the others over the next two years. The unlisted company’s Singapore operations contribute about a third of its revenue.
“I think the next five to eight years, we’re going to be chasing supply not demand as an industry,” GlobalFoundries CEO Thomas Caulfield told a media briefing. He added that the company was prioritising automotive customers.
Tuesday’s expansion is in addition to the company’s previously announced plan to invest $1.4 billion in 2021 alone to expand its manufacturing capacity.
The chip shortage, which began in earnest in late December, was caused in part by automakers miscalculating demand for semiconductors in the pandemic. It was aggravated by electronics manufacturers placing more chip orders as work-from-home practices fueled a surge in sales of computers and other devices.
Large chipmakers including Intel Corp. have warned that the shortage will last well into next year. Intel announced in March a $20 billion plan to expand its advanced chip making capacity, while Taiwan’s TSMC said in April it will invest $100 billion over the next three years.
As well, governments, including those of the United States and Japan, have intervened to urge faster supplies. Earlier this month, the United States approved $54 billion in funds to increase US production and research into semiconductors and telecom equipment.
Caulfield said funding for GlobalFoundries’ expansion plan included investments from governments and pre-payments from customers.
The $4 billion investment in Singapore is the first of a phased expansion program planned by the company for the next five to 10 years, the CEO said. He did not specify a total amount.
The new Singapore fab will add capacity of 450,000 wafers per year, taking the campus’s total to 1.5 million, and the company expects to begin production in early 2023. Most of the added production will come online by end 2023.
The factory will make chips for cars and 5G technology, with long-term customer agreements already in place. It will add about 1,000 jobs in Singapore.