The National, a Middle East paper which covers Lebanon where Mr Ghosn is now living, claims there is now some evidence to support his claim.
According to people familiar with what happened and previously unreported internal correspondence, the campaign by top Nissan executives to dethrone one of the most celebrated leaders in the automotive industry started almost a year before Mr Ghosn’s arrest in late 2018 for alleged financial misconduct, which he has always denied but which also led to his dismissal from a senior post at Renault.
The effort was motivated in part by opposition to the former chairman’s push for greater integration between the Japanese carmaker and long-time alliance partner Renault, the new information reveals.
Nissan has long maintained that the decision to oust Mr Ghosn turned on allegations of underreporting his income and other financial transgressions levelled by Tokyo prosecutors, the documents and recollections of people familiar with what transpired show that a powerful group of insiders viewed his detention and prosecution as an opportunity to revamp the global automaker’s relationship with top shareholder Renault on terms more favourable to Nissan.
A chain of email correspondence dating back to February 2018, corroborated by people who asked not to be identified discussing sensitive information, paints a picture of a methodical campaign to remove a powerful executive.
The information comes to light as another former Nissan executive and the company itself face a looming trial in Tokyo, and as Japan seeks the extradition of Mr Ghosn, 66, who fled to Lebanon in a daring escape last year. Two Americans who allegedly helped in his escape have been arrested and Turkey has put five men in court on charges relating to his flight from Japan to Turkey and onto Lebanon.
Alarmed by Mr Ghosn’s pledge in early 2018 to make the alliance between the companies irreversible, senior managers at the Japanese car maker discussed their concern at how the chairman of both Nissan and Renault was taking steps towards further convergence, according to people familiar with discussions at the time.
Nissan should act to “neutralise his initiatives before it’s too late,” one executive wrote in mid-2018 to a senior manager at Nissan responsible for government relations, according to the correspondence.
Mr Ghosn has said he’s innocent of the four charges of financial misconduct and breach of trust. Considered an international fugitive by Japan, Mr Ghosn declined to comment via a representative about this latest twist in the story.