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From Shock Arrest to Nissan Turmoil and Trial: A Carlos Ghosn Timeline

Kae Inoue
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From Shock Arrest to Nissan Turmoil and Trial: A Carlos Ghosn Timeline

(Bloomberg) -- Carlos Ghosn fled to Lebanon ahead of a trial in Japan, the latest twist in the saga of the executive’s fall following his arrest in Tokyo more than a year ago.

“I am now in Lebanon and will no longer be held hostage by a rigged Japanese justice system where guilt is presumed, discrimination is rampant, and basic human rights are denied,” the former head of Nissan Motor Co. and Renault SA said in an emailed statement Tuesday.

Ghosn, who holds Lebanese citizenship, had been under house arrest in Japan since April and was due to go on trial there in the coming months. Lebanon generally doesn’t extradite its citizens. The 65-year-old also has citizenship in Brazil and France.

Ghosn, accused of crimes ranging from falsifying documents to diverting Nissan money for personal use, has proclaimed his innocence on all charges. His fall shook the alliance he created between Nissan, Renault and Mitsubishi Motors Corp. to its core, and the three-way partnership has moved on.

Nissan had its own share of turmoil over the past year. Profits dropped to decade lows, the relationship with top shareholder Renault was damaged and Ghosn’s loyalist-turned-accuser Hiroto Saikawa was ousted as chief executive.

Here’s a rundown of key developments:

Dec. 31

Ghosn says he is now in Lebanon. “I have not fled justice – I have escaped injustice and political persecution,” he said in an emailed statement.

Dec. 10

Japan’s securities regulator says Nissan is set to be fined 2.4 billion yen ($22 million) for underreporting Ghosn’s compensation.

Dec. 1

Makoto Uchida, who ran Nissan’s joint venture in China, formally takes over as chief executive of Nissan. In his first press conference, he says changes are needed in the alliance with Renault and Mitsubishi to benefit sales and earnings.

Nov. 21

Ghosn’s wife Carole says he should face trial in France because he won’t get a fair hearing in Tokyo. Japan has a “hostage justice system” that considers those who are charged “guilty until proven innocent,” she said in an interview with Bloomberg TV in New York.

Nov. 12

Nissan slashes its sales and profit forecast for the year through March and withdraws its dividend outlook, dealing an unexpected blow to top shareholder Renault.

Oct. 31

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV agrees to merge with PSA Group, adding pressure to Renault to fix its relationship with Nissan. Renault had sought and failed to reach a merger agreement with Fiat earlier in the year.

Oct. 24

Ghosn’s lawyers enter pleas of not guilty on all charges, saying he’s the victim of a conspiracy between prosecutors, the government and Nissan to bring about his downfall.

Oct. 9

Nissan appoints Makoto Uchida, head of its China joint venture, as CEO effective Dec. 1, along with new Chief Operating Officer Ashwani Gupta.

Sept. 23

Nissan, Ghosn and Greg Kelly agree to pay fines to settle charges brought by U.S. regulators, without admitting or denying wrongdoing.

Sept. 10

Nissan’s board ousts Saikawa over his role in the excessive pay issue. His last day at the company is Sept. 16.

July 25

Nissan’s operating profit drops to a decade low and the company announces a restructuring that will involve 12,500 job cuts.

June 11

Kelly tells magazine Bungei Shunju about the existence of stock-linked compensation for CEO Saikawa, Ghosn’s handpicked successor, that resulted in excess pay in 2013.

June 7

Merger discussions between Renault and Fiat, which would have created the world’s third-largest carmaker, collapse after Nissan withholds support for the deal.

May 23

Pre-trial proceedings begin in Tokyo, mainly to narrow the scope of the charges.

April 25

Ghosn’s lawyers post a bond of 500 million yen ($4.6 million) to obtain his release. A court set the bond on condition he lives at a registered domestic address, doesn’t leave the country, and adheres to requirements meant to prevent the destruction of any evidence.

April 24

Nissan cuts its preliminary operating profit for the year ended March 31, marking the first time in a decade it earned less than its French partner Renault.

April 22

Prosecutors indict Ghosn on fresh charges of misdirecting Nissan’s money for his personal use, saying the carmaker lost $5 million funneled into accounts controlled by him. These represent the most serious allegations so far against Ghosn.Nissan also files a criminal complaint to prosecutors, alleging Ghosn drew on the automaker’s funds for his own use.

April 19

French magazine L’Express reports unidentified people saying Ghosn spent $30,000 of Nissan money on luxury items such as Louis Vuitton, Hermes and Ermenegildo Zegna products.

April 16

Ghosn is said to have improperly charged Renault for a 3,000-euro ($3,320) scooter purchased in 2018.

April 13

Ghosn’s son denies his startup received funds via an investment company that is alleged to have obtained money from Nissan.

April 9

Lawyers of Ghosn issue a video of him recorded before he was detained, where he speaks of “backstabbing” by executives who played a “very dirty game.” He doesn’t identify the executives by name, and repeats his claim of innocence.

April 8

Nissan shareholders vote Ghosn out as a board director, stripping him of his last title at the automaker.Among allegations, Ghosn is accused of siphoning off $5 million of $15 million that Nissan sent to an overseas distributor between 2015 and 2018, according to Japanese prosecutors.

April 4

Prosecutors rearrest Ghosn at his Tokyo apartment, saying he sent Nissan’s money to accounts he controlled and that he took a combined $15 million in three instances beginning in 2015.Ghosn calls his detention “outrageous and arbitrary,” and says it’s “part of another attempt by some individuals at Nissan to silence me by misleading the prosecutors.” He pledges his innocence of the “groundless charges and accusations.”

April 3

Renault says certain expenses that Ghosn incurred are a “source of concern, as they involve questionable and concealed practices and violations of the group’s ethical principles.” The automaker also raises potential issues concerning payments to one of its distributors in the Middle East.

April 2

Ghosn’s lawyer, Junichiro Hironaka, says he should be tried separately from the automaker and accused accomplice Kelly.

March 28

An external corporate-governance panel says Saikawa signed off on Ghosn’s retirement package. A representative for Ghosn says the deposed executive “acted at all times with the full authority of the Board and its shareholders.”

March 11

A Tokyo court rejects Ghosn’s request to attend a Nissan board meeting on March 12 to discuss the alliance with Renault and Mitsubishi Motors, saying his attendance would violate terms of bail forbidding him from contacting people involved in the case.

March 6

Ghosn leaves the Tokyo detention center after posting one of the highest bails in Japan’s legal history. Conditions include an agreement to remain in Japan, having cameras installed at the entrance and exit of his home, restrictions to using his mobile phone, and having no access to the internet.

March 5

A Tokyo court grants Ghosn bail at 1 billion yen on his third application. Ghosn reiterates his innocence and again calls the accusations “meritless and unsubstantiated.”

March 4

Hironaka calls Ghosn’s long detention “extremely unfair” and hints at the involvement of a “higher power.” Lawyers for Ghosn’s wife and children say the family is appealing to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention for help in securing his release.

Feb. 20

Hironaka holds his first press conference as Ghosn’s lawyer, in which he calls the case “bizarre” and alludes to it being a result of a conspiracy inside the automaker.

Feb 13

Ghosn replaces his legal team with one led by Hironaka, famous for his representation in prominent cases including the successful defense of a former senior bureaucrat against corruption charges.The International Federation for Human Rights says the denial of Ghosn’s access to a lawyer during interrogation and his prolonged detention reflect some “serious failings” in Japan’s criminal-justice system.

Feb. 7

Ghosn may have made improper use of a Renault sponsorship deal to pay for his wedding party at the Chateau de Versailles, and received a “personal benefit” worth 50,000 euros, the French carmaker says. This is the first time Renault disclosed possible improprieties by its former chief.

Jan. 30

Ghosn says his arrest for alleged financial crimes is the result of a “plot” by Nissan executives and a “distortion of reality.” Nissan says its own investigation unveiled “substantial and convincing evidence of misconduct.”

Jan. 29

French President Emmanuel Macron tells Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that Ghosn’s detention is “too long and too hard.”

Jan. 23

Ghosn resigns as chairman and CEO of Renault.

Jan. 21

Ghosn makes another application for bail.

Jan. 18

Nissan says Ghosn improperly received 7.8 million euros from a joint venture with Mitsubishi Motors.

Jan. 15

Tokyo District Court turns down Ghosn’s bail application. The rejection means he will have to stay in jail for at least another two months.

Jan. 11

Prosecutors indict Ghosn again, this time for aggravated breach of trust.

Jan. 10

Ghosn comes down with a fever in jail, prompting authorities to halt his interrogation.

Jan. 8

Ghosn attends a hearing at a court in Tokyo in his first public appearance since being arrested, with handcuffs, plastic slippers and a rope around his waist. He rejects prosecutors’ allegations, saying he has been “wrongly accused and unfairly detained based on meritless and unsubstantiated accusations.”

Dec. 26

Ghosn’s aide Kelly is released from jail.

Dec. 25

Prosecutors appeal a Tokyo District Court decision to grant Kelly bail, set at 70 million yen, which he posts in cash.

Dec. 21

Japanese prosecutors rearrest Ghosn on more serious allegations of financial misconduct, saying he is suspected of damaging Nissan with his own unprofitable investments.

Dec. 20

A Tokyo court refuses a request by prosecutors to extend the detentions of Ghosn and Kelly by 10 days. The prosecutors’ appeal against this was also rejected, bolstering his odds for bail.

Dec. 10

Ghosn and Nissan are indicted for understating his income by about $43 million. Kelly is also indicted for aiding Ghosn in underreporting the income.

Nov. 28

Ghosn denies reports he passed on personal trading losses to Nissan.

Nov. 26

Mitsubishi Motors ousts Ghosn as chairman.

Nov. 22

Nissan dismisses Ghosn as chairman and strips Kelly of his representative-director role. A company official says Ghosn was provided with six houses, including in Tokyo and New York.

Nov. 21

Renault names Thierry Bollore interim deputy CEO.

Nov. 19

Ghosn is arrested in Tokyo for alleged financial crimes along with Nissan representative director Kelly. Nissan CEO Saikawa expresses disappointment and indignation at Ghosn’s alleged misconduct, including using company funds for personal investments and misusing corporate assets.

--With assistance from Ville Heiskanen and Anand Krishnamoorthy.

To contact the reporter on this story: Kae Inoue in Tokyo at kinoue@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Young-Sam Cho at ycho2@bloomberg.net, Reed Stevenson, Will Davies

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