Ousted car boss Carlos Ghosn has likened his downfall to being “hit by a bus” as he prepares to face questioning from French investigators over allegations of financial misconduct.
Mr Ghosn, once the powerful leader of an alliance of Renault, Nissan and Mitsubishi, fell from power after being arrested in Japan in 2018 – before skipping bail and fleeing to Lebanon a year later.
He blamed the “people who organised the plot” to bring him down for the resultant “collateral damage” – with several associates facing jail or trial in Japan and Turkey.
Mr Ghosn now faces legal challenges in France after the Japanese accusations triggered scrutiny of his activity there and the seizure of millions of euros of his assets.
The businessman has denied accusations relating to the alleged underreporting of his pay and misuse of corporate funds, claiming that he was the victim of a corporate coup.
Reflecting on his downfall, in an interview with the Associated Press news agency, Mr Ghosn said: “It’s like you have… a heart attack somewhere, or you’ve been hit by a bus. You change your life.
“All of a sudden, you are in a completely different reality and you have to adapt to this reality.”
Mr Ghosn said he had voluntarily agreed to days of questioning in Beirut by magistrates investigating claims of financial misconduct in France.
They are looking into the financing of lavish parties the businessman threw at Versailles, as well as €11m in spending on private planes and events arranged by a Dutch holding company and subsidies for a car dealership in Oman.
He denies any wrongdoing.
While initially held in Japan, Mr Ghosn had been held in solitary confinement for months and not allowed to speak with his wife Carole.
He has said that he fled the country after it became clear he had “zero” chance of receiving a fair trial.
Mr Ghosn told the Associated Press: “In Japan, you had a Japanese person interrogating me, writing in Japanese and wanting me to sign things in Japanese that I don’t understand.
“Now I will be speaking in French, and I’ll have my lawyers present. Of course, I have much more confidence in the French legal system than in the Japanese system.”
Mr Ghosn added that he was “shocked” at a court ruling in the Netherlands last week throwing out his wrongful dismissal claim against a Dutch-based alliance between Nissan and Mitsubishi, and instead ordering him to repay €5m in pay.
The businessman said in his interview that he now spends his time preparing his legal defence, teaching, helping start-ups and working on books and documentaries.
He added that he had spent six months repairing his home after it was damaged in the massive explosion at a Beirut port last summer.
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