Carlos Ghosn makes first court appearance in Japan

Carlos Ghosn makes first court appearance in Japan

Carlos Ghosn makes first court appearance in Japan

The judge, Yuichi Tada, said it was because he was considered a flight risk, and the possibility of concealing evidence.

"Your Honour, I am innocent of the accusations made against me", he said.

Mr Ghosn says he did ask the company to take on collateral temporarily for his foreign exchange contracts, but that it did not lose any money through this move.

Seen for the first time since his November arrest, Ghosn was wearing a dark suit without a tie, and plastic slippers, and looked thinner and with gray hair.

Ghosn added that if he died today - what he described as the "Death Test" - Nissan would not be required to pay his heirs anything but his retirement allowance, which he said showed there was no binding committment for additional pay. He was led into court in handcuffs with a rope around his waist.

His arrest has also put Japan's criminal justice system under global scrutiny and sparked criticism for some of its practices, including keeping suspects in detention for long periods and prohibiting defence lawyers from being present during interrogations that can last eight hours a day. He's a Brazilian-born Frenchman of Lebanese ancestry.

Go Kondo, one of Ghosn's lawyers, countered: 'There is no risk that he will run away. He's widely known so it's hard for him to escape'. Tada also said there were grounds to suspect he could tamper with evidence or induce others to.

But he also painted the picture of a loyal company man who wouldn't dream of harming a corporation for which he felt "a genuine love and appreciation".

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From the moment on November 19 that prosecutors stormed his private jet at a Tokyo airport, the twists and turns of the case have gripped Japan and the business world.

The hearing was requested by Ghosn himself, who told the court he had been "wrongly accused and unfairly detained".

In keeping with Japanese regulations, he has been allowed visits only from his lawyers and consular officials.

"I have acted honorably, legally and with the knowledge and approval of the appropriate executives inside the company", Ghosn said.

It said he had not failed to disclose any of his income from Nissan.

Prosecutors have formally charged him over suspicions he under-declared some five billion yen ($44 million) from his salary in documents to investors over five fiscal years from 2010 - apparently to avoid accusations he was paid too much.

"The $14.7 million in payments over four years from Nissan Motor Co. were for legitimate business purposes in order to support and promote Nissan's business strategy in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and included reimbursement for business expenses", according to a statement issued on behalf of Khaled Juffali its New York-based public relations representative Terry Rooney, founder and CEO of RooneyPartners.

His defense counsel has said that there are insufficient grounds for his confinement and Ghosn was eager to tell the court "in his own words that he has not inflicted any losses on Nissan".

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The case has rattled Nissan's alliance with French automaker Renault SA RENA.PA , where Ghosn still remains chairman and chief executive.

"He is a person who reformed Nissan by doing things Japanese people could not", said Masataka Obinata, 67, a Nissan shareholder in Tokyo. No cameras or audio recordings are allowed in Japanese court sessions.

Authorities also have arrested a fellow Nissan executive and aide to Ghosn, Greg Kelly, charging him with collaborating with Ghosn to underreport his income. Kelly, who suffers from spinal stenosis, was later released on bail and is being treated at a hospital in Ibaraki Prefecture. He also has maintained his innocence. Another allegation is that Ghosn transferred obligations on his own personal investment losses to Nissan.

After a maximum of 22 days they must either press formal charges, release the suspect on bail or come up with new allegations.

Ghosn's detention now runs through January 11.

He then said that it could be six months before that first trial was held. For his lawyers, it's a chance to argue the ex-Nissan chief's case and push back against his prolonged detention.

Under Japanese law, falsifying financial reporting carries the maximum penalty of 10 years in prison, a 10 million yen ($89,000) fine, or both.

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