Nissan Motor Co Ltd on Monday blasted suggestions in media reports of a conspiracy within the Japanese carmaker to remove former chairman Carlos Ghosn.
Ghosn’s 2018 arrest in Japan on financial misconduct charges has led to speculation that the move was orchestrated by Nissan executives who opposed closer ties with partner Renault SA.
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“I know that in books and the media there has been talk about a conspiracy but there are no facts whatsoever to support this,” Motoo Nagai, chairman of Nissan’s auditing committee, told shareholders at the company’s annual general meeting.
Responding to demands from a shareholder to address the speculation, Nagai argued that the investigation into Ghosn was conducted internally and by outside law firms.
Ghosn skipped bail in Japan in December and fled to Lebanon, where he spent much of his childhood. He was awaiting trial on charges of under-reporting earnings, breach of trust and misappropriation of company funds, all of which he denies.
He said he was subjected to inhumane prison conditions in Japan, which he accuses of fabricating charges against him to destroy his reputation.
“I can tell you, it’s not very difficult to come to a conclusion you’re going to die in Japan or you have to get out,” Ghosn told reporters during a news conference in Beirut in January.
Two men, former United States Special Forces soldier Michael Taylor and his son, Peter Taylor, have been held in prison in the US state of Massachusetts since last month on charges that they helped Ghosn flee Japan in an elaborate plot. Japan is seeking their extradition.
Monday’s meeting lasted almost two hours – twice as long as planned, as shareholders grilled Chief Executive Makoto Uchida on how he planned to restore trust in the company following the Ghosn scandal, and revive sales in the US and China.
Uchida, who took the helm in December, told shareholders he would stick to his promise to step down as leader if he fails to deliver on a turnaround plan for the Japanese automaker, which last month reported its first annual loss in 11 years.
Seeking to slash costs and downsize after years of excessive spending in the pursuit of market share, Nissan plans to cut its model range by about a fifth and reduce production capacity, shuttering plants in Spain and Indonesia and laying off workers in countries including Mexico.
It now aims to sell five million vehicles a year, far fewer than past ambitions of eight million.