PARIS -- Carlos Ghosn told French media he is having to battle an "army" that is against him, as he remains in detention in Japan accused of financial misconduct at Nissan.
Ghosn, who has been removed from his post as chairman at Nissan and resigned as chairman and CEO of Renault last week, said he is having to fight the charges against him alone while the Japanese prosecutor has 70 people on the case and Nissan has dozens.
In an interview with Les Echos business newspaper and Agence France-Presse published on Thursday, Ghosn also called the charges and accusations a 'distortion of reality meant to destroy his reputation."
Ghosn used words like "trap," "treason," and "plot" to describe how he came to be arrested in November as he landed in Tokyo for what he thought were routine meetings at Nissan.
Ghosn reiterated that allegations against him were part of a plot to destroy his reputation by Nissan executives opposed to his plan for deeper integration of the Japanese automaker with Renault. He said that the people who were "at the heart of the accusations" were also leading the investigation, while he has been denied an opportunity to defend himself.
Ghosn had pushed for a deeper tie-up between Nissan and Renault, including possibly a full merger, despite strong reservations at Nissan.
Talks on integrating Renault and Nissan had started at the end of 2017, Ghosn said in the interview. He said he and Hiroto Saikawa, whom he had appointed as CEO of Nissan at the beginning of 2017, discussed the subject frequently in early 2018 but that talks had slowed over the summer before the two met in September.
Under a scenario proposed by Ghosn, a holding company would be created to control Renault, Nissan and Mitsubishi, including all the shares, "while respecting their autonomy." Such a system, he added, needed to be based on the "solid performance" of each company.
Asked if that was a problem, he noted that Nissan's performance had declined in the past two years. "If you look at the results and strength of Nissan, Mitsubishi and Renault, you can see there is a problem."
Ghosn declined to say if he had decided to remove Saikawa, but added that when a company's performance declines, no CEO is immune from being fired. "That is the rule in any business," he said. "There are no exceptions."
Ghosn has been held in custody in Japan since last November, after being arrested on charges of financial misconduct, which he denies.
Among the charges is that he failed to disclose more than $80 million in additional compensation for 2010-18 that he would be paid to him after he retired. He is also accused of transferring personal trading losses to the automaker.
Ghosn said he still hopes to explain his situation to the Renault board. Asked why he resigned if he was innocent of the accusations against him, he said the company could not function under a system of temporary governance, and that he decided to resign when he was refused bail a second time.
'Difficult' jail conditions
Ghosn remains in very difficult conditions in his Tokyo detention cell, his French-based lawyer Jean-Yves Leborgne told French radio station RTL on Thursday.
Leborgne said he hoped to be able to see Ghosn soon, and that as far as he was aware, Ghosn had not been able to meet any family members. He also expressed hopes Ghosn may still be able to be released on bail.
Reuters contributed to this report