Carlos Ghosn claims innocence in first public appearance since arrest

Nissan CEO Hiroto Saikawa

Ghosn attends a hearing at the Tokyo District Court to make his first public appearance since his arrest.

He appeared in a dark suit without a tie and wore plastic slippers.

"I look forward to beginning the process of defending myself against the accusations that have been made against me", he said in the statement.

Despite all demands to give Ghosn a fair shake, President Emmanuel Macron has been at odds with the executive and with Nissan since obtaining greater government control over Renault as economy minister a few years ago.

Ghosn said that Juffali's company was compensated for "critical services that substantially benefited Nissan", including soliciting financing and resolving a business dispute.

He said he had an option to retire and use his retirement fund to restore his personal finances, harmed by volatile forex moves at the time. He said four major companies tried to recruit him while he was Nissan CEO.

Presiding Judge Yuichi Tada read out the charges and said Ghosn was being detained due to flight risk and the possibility that he may hide evidence.

He was handcuffed with a rope around his waist.

Ghosn said he had "acted honourably, legally and with the knowledge and approval of the appropriate executives inside the company with the sole goal of supporting and strengthening Nissan", according to a statement released to some media including The Associated Press before the hearing, by people familiar with the case.

His defense counsel has said that there are insufficient grounds for his confinement and Ghosn was eager to tell the court "in his own words that he has not inflicted any losses on Nissan". They requested anonymity because of the matters' confidentiality.

The Khaled Juffali Company also issued a statement on Tuesday saying it had received the payments for legitimate business purposes.

The 64-year-old was arrested by prosecutors in the country last November and charged with a series of offences, including under-reporting his pay.

If proven, each of Mr Ghosn's alleged offenses may carry a sentence of as much as 10 years, prosecutors have said.

In Japan, suspects are routinely held without bail, often due to fears about tampered evidence.

Ghosn's courtroom appearance attracted huge media attention, with cameras ranged along the streets to capture his departure from the detention centre and arrival at court.

Ghosn was sent in by Renault SA of France in 1999 and led a spectacular turnaround at Nissan Motor Co. for two decades, during which he mostly served as chief executive. "With Mitsubishi, this alliance of carmakers was reckoned to be the third largest automaker in the world so there are bigger implications".

On Dec. 21, when it appeared that Ghosn would be released from detention, prosecutors arrested him on suspicion of aggravated breach of trust in violation of the Companies Law.

A whopping 1,122 tickets were handed out on Tuesday in a lottery to attend Mr Ghosn's hearing - about 80 times oversubscribed - for the 14 public seats available in the courtroom gallery. No media cameras or audio recordings are allowed in Japanese court sessions.

Ghosn's downfall was sudden, coming in a surprise arrest as his private jet landed in Tokyo on November 19.

It's the executive's first opportunity to mount a defence in person following industry-shaking allegations that he under-reported his compensation and transferred personal trading losses to Nissan. Kelly, who was released on bail on December 25, also has said he is innocent.

For Ghosn's lawyers, the hearing is a chance to argue his case and push back against his prolonged detention.

Ghosn reportedly denies all the allegations.

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