The wife of Carlos Ghosn has flown to Paris to increase pressure on the French government to intervene and help her husband as the former Nissan chairman begins a stretch of solitary detention in Tokyo.
In an interview with the Financial Times just hours before boarding her flight out of Japan on Friday night, Carole Ghosn said that her husband’s previous 108-day imprisonment had left him “a different person” and that normal life under bail conditions had been impossible.
“I think the French government should do more for him. I don’t think they’ve done enough. I don’t think he’s had enough support and he’s calling for assistance. As a French citizen, it should be a right,” said Ms Ghosn, echoing a plea for assistance made by her husband during an interview with French television reporters last week.
The Ghosn family’s efforts to draw the administration of President Emmanuel Macron more deeply into the Nissan-Renault imbroglio follow Mr Ghosn’s rearrest by Japanese prosecutors last week — a highly unusual move that appeared to stun Mr Ghosn’s legal team and reignited criticism of the Japanese justice system.
Mr Ghosn was released on bail in early March and had lived in recent weeks under strict conditions that prevented him from using the internet except in his lawyer’s office. He and visiting family members have been under constant scrutiny of prosecutors and media. As rumours of Mr Ghosn’s impending rearrest began to build last week, said Ms Ghosn of her husband, “you could see the fear in his eyes”.
“He didn’t have any energy. He told me how he used to jump out of bed but now he’s exhausted all the time,” Ms Ghosn said.
The rearrest relates to allegations that Mr Ghosn devised a mechanism whereby a proportion of payments made by a Nissan subsidiary to an Omani dealer found their way into expenditure that directly benefited the former chairman and his family.
Mr Ghosn has denied all of the charges made against him.
Renault also alerted French prosecutors last week to about €10m in allegedly suspicious payments to the same Omani distributor, according to people familiar with the investigations. Public sentiment in France has shifted as the French carmaker also accused its former boss of “questionable and concealed practices” and of violating the company’s ethics.
Mr Ghosn’s arrest — his fourth since last November — followed what his wife described as a “devastating” dawn raid on the couple’s apartment in central Tokyo last Thursday morning.
As well as performing what she said were humiliating body searches, observing them shower and seizing laptops, phones and documents relating to Mr Ghosn’s preparations for his trial, prosecutors confiscated Ms Ghosn’s Lebanese passport and mobile phones. Prosecutors asked her to accompany them for questioning, she said, but lawyers representing the family told her to refuse.
Prosecutors failed to discover, however, Ms Ghosn’s US passport, creating what she believed was a narrow window in which to leave Japan and attempt to fight Mr Ghosn’s case through human rights groups.
“I’m all alone here. It’s traumatising what happened,” Ms Ghosn said during her final hours in Tokyo. “If my husband is in detention and I’m here, I won’t be useful. I’m going to France . . . and be more useful where I can be.”
The prosecutors behaviour and the exposure of Japan’s “hostage” justice system where detainees are often held until they confess, has drawn uncomfortable international scrutiny on Japan as it prepares to host the G20, the Rugby World Cup and the Tokyo Olympics.
But supporters of Mr Ghosn agreed that pleas for greater intervention by the French government were unlikely to yield significant results, particularly as Mr Ghosn and Mr Macron had previously clashed over the future of the Renault-Nissan alliance.