Ousted Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn insisted that he had been “wrongly accused and unfairly detained” as he appeared publicly in court for the first time since his arrest over financial misconduct claims.
The former titan of the global industry, who was led into the hearing in handcuffs and with a rope around his waist, firmly declared his innocence over the charges.
In a point-by-point rebuttal of the allegations, Ghosn told the court that he had could have left Nissan at one stage but that his “moral commitment” to the company would not allow that.
“A captain doesn’t jump ship in the middle of a storm,” he said.
Ghosn, until his arrest one of the most prominent figures in international business, was said to look thinner than before, with sunken cheeks and with his dark hair showing grey roots, when he appeared at the Tokyo district court.
The hearing was requested by Ghosn’s lawyers to explain the reasons for his prolonged detention since 19 November.
He told the court: “I have been wrongly accused and unfairly detained based on meritless and unsubstantiated accusations.
“Contrary to the accusations made by the prosecutors, I never received any compensation from Nissan that was not disclosed, nor did I ever enter into any binding contract with Nissan to be paid a fixed amount that was not disclosed.”
The 64-year-old has been formally charged with under-reporting his income by about 5 billion yen (£34m) over five years from 2010 to 2015.
He has also been arrested, though not charged, on allegations over the shifting of personal investment losses worth 1.85 billion yen (£13m) to Nissan.
Ghosn told the court: “I strongly believe that in all of my efforts on behalf of the company I have acted honourably, legally, and with the knowledge and approval of the appropriate executives inside the company.”
Ghosn led a global alliance between Japan’s Nissan and France’s Renault – which in recent year also added Mitsubishi – and remains head of Renault.
He is credited with a spectacular turnaround in Nissan’s fortunes over the last two decades.