Jan. 30 (UPI) -- Jailed former Nissan Motors and Renault chairman Carlos Ghosn said Wednesday that his plans to integrate the two motor companies with Mitsubishi led to a "plot" to get rid of him and the criminal charges he faces in Japan.
The auto executive made his comments, the first since he was arrested in Tokyo last November, during an exclusive interview with Nikkei Asian Review.
Japanese prosecutors have charged Ghosn, 64, with under-reporting his salary by $46 million between 2010 and 2015 while chairman of Nissan. Authorities leveled new charges against him this month, saying he transferred $17 million in personal investment losses to Nissan in 2008.
Ghosn said, though, it was his intention to integrate the automakers under a giant holding company that spooked some Nissan executives and led to criminal charges against him.
He told the Nikkei Asian Review that his leadership style was misinterpreted in Japan as a dictatorship during his 19 years at Nissan for the "purpose of getting rid of me."
Ghosn, who spoke at the Tokyo Detention House where he is being held until his trial, said the disputed chief executive payments made to him were part of a "CEO reserve" and approved by four officers, suggesting that he made no effort to hide or under-report the funds as prosecutors claim.
"[Have I] done [something] inappropriate? I am not a lawyer, I don't know the interpretation of [such] facts," Ghosn said, suggesting Nissan officials knew of the reserve but never informed him how it could be interpreted legally. "These are known by everybody. Why didn't they tell me?"
Ghosn's breach-of-trust charges are connected with $14.7 million in payments to a company run by Saudi businessman Khaled al-Juffali. The former executive claimed again the payments were all approved without a hint of wrongdoing until November.
Ghosn served as both Nissan's president and chief operating officer since June 2001. He joined Nissan from Renault SA in 1999. He added president of Renault to his title in 2005 and helped guide the move to partner with Mitsubishi Motors. He became chairman of Mitsubishi in 2016.
Ghosn stepped down as Nissan's CEO in 2017, but continued to serve as chairman of its board until his arrest.