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The Carlos Ghosn case – the return of Japan Inc

29 Comments
By Takashi Takano
Former Nissan Chairman Carlos Ghosn Photo: AP file

In just a few days, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will host the G20 summit, bringing leaders from around the world to Osaka and shining a spotlight on Japan’s advancement as a liberal and democratic country with open economies.

Unfortunately, this is not the country I have seen lately; instead, I have seen a country that has fiercely guarded its private commercial entities, even through use of basic sovereign powers, including criminal investigation and penal sanction.

As a lawyer who has practiced for more than 35 years in my home country, it gives me no joy to issue this warning: Japan Inc has returned.

This may come as a surprise to many – it certainly was for me.

A product of the extended recession we faced in the 1990s in Japan, Japan Inc refers to a time that many of us thought was long over, when our government worked hand-in-glove with Japanese corporations to benefit our country, leaving the international business community out in the cold.

Many thought we had reached a new chapter in our history books since, in recent years, a thriving partnership with the West has helped Japan open up its markets, facilitate free and open trade and strengthen the global economy. This has worked to our mutual advantage because, due to a decreasing birth rate and an aging population, Western and non-native executives help keep our economy humming.

Indeed, this mindset helped bring us executives like Carlos Ghosn, who saved Nissan. Just last year, the Tokyo Stock Exchange called for corporate boards to improve diversity with regard to “gender and international experience.” In short, Japan has worked hard to build strong global business relationships and garner the respect of the international community.

Which is why my home country’s recent treatment of Mr Ghosn, the former chairman of Nissan Renault and Mitsubishi, and its heavy interference into a private corporate matter, is all the more worrying.

I should note that it is only out of great respect for my country that I am raising this warning flag so that we can change course.

Despite the progress we have made and our attempts to say otherwise, we must acknowledge reality.

That reality includes Japan’s treatment of my client, Mr Ghosn. On Nov 19 last year, he was arrested at a Tokyo airport and was subsequently denied the most basic legal rights and protections while being detained for over 130 days. Locked up in a small cell of a detention center in solitary confinement for months on end, he was repeatedly questioned by prosecutors – without the right to have a lawyer present – in an effort to force him into confessing to crimes he did not commit. Mr Ghosn was finally released on bail, but with extremely harsh conditions, such as being under surveillance camera 24 hours a day and even being prohibited from communicating with his wife. To me, there is no doubt this treatment is a clear violation of international human rights standards.

Many now believe his arrest and treatment is part of an ongoing conspiracy between the Japanese government and a few Nissan executives to protect the company’s Japanese identity and prevent a formal merger with Renault, the French automaker. If this is in fact the case, this action came at the expense of the economic wellbeing of Nissan, which has been in a downward spiral since Ghosn’s departure.

It is important to also note the treatment of Nissan’s embattled CEO Hiroto Saikawa versus Carlos Ghosn and Greg Kelly, a former board member and senior executive at the company, who was also arrested. Kelly recently publicly questioned why Saikawa had not been arrested or similarly treated by prosecutors despite being in charge and being the person who oversaw and even approved many of the incidents under investigation.

One uncomfortable but obvious difference is that Ghosn and Kelly are Western executives and Saikawa is not.

And it doesn’t take much interpretation to recognize these actions as something even more troubling – a return to a time when Japan’s economy was tightly controlled and restricted by the government, which resulted in what is referred to as our “lost decade.”

As a proud Japanese citizen, this direction is concerning for many reasons. I believe that Japan has the ability to be a true international leader because I have seen it; with Japan hosting both the G20 this week and the Olympics next year, we must act like it. Now is hardly the time for our country to pull inward and shun outsiders. Japan has made tremendous economic progress as a country over the past few decades and it is my greatest hope that we will keep moving forward. And that means keeping Japan Inc firmly in our past.

Takashi Takano is the Representative Partner at the Law Office of Takashi Takano and a member of Carlos Ghosn’s defense team.

© Japan Today

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29 Comments
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Japan is forced to return to Japan Inc., because of unsavory behavior by Ghosn, period.

-18 ( +2 / -20 )

That reality includes Japan’s treatment of my client, Mr Ghosn.

I think lawyers should have a duty of reserve and not be allowed to do PR campaigns in media about cases they are involved in.

-10 ( +2 / -12 )

Coskuri, what you say may be true, but if it is, it should apply equally to the prosecution that has made sure from the start its side of the case has plenty of publicity. It seems Takano is just trying to level the playing field, He is also making it quite clear who he is.

16 ( +16 / -0 )

This article comes as foreign media and government officials are ready to arrive in Japan. The left hand and right hand are acting individually. Japan is trying hard to present a week-coordinated wa-like face but the true Japan is coming out. Bad timing. Let’s see how others play their cards this week at the G20.

10 ( +10 / -0 )

I should note that it is only out of great respect for my country that I am raising this warning flag so that we can change course.

No doubt that the apologists and nationalists will still come after you sir.

Many now believe his arrest and treatment is part of an ongoing conspiracy between the Japanese government and a few Nissan executives to protect the company窶冱 Japanese identity and prevent a formal merger with Renault, the French automaker. If this is in fact the case, this action came at the expense of the economic wellbeing of Nissan, which has been in a downward spiral since Ghosn窶冱 departure.

Exactly.

As a proud Japanese citizen, this direction is concerning for many reasons. I believe that Japan has the ability to be a true international leader because I have seen it; with Japan hosting both the G20 this week and the Olympics next year, we must act like it. Now is hardly the time for our country to pull inward and shun outsiders. Japan has made tremendous economic progress as a country over the past few decades and it is my greatest hope that we will keep moving forward. And that means keeping Japan Inc firmly in our past.

Wow! First of all, I agree 100%. Second, to hear these kind of words from a Japanese citizen is so heartening.

9 ( +9 / -0 )

I should note that it is only out of great respect for my country that I am raising this warning flag so that we can change course.

The fact that Mr. Takano feels the need to insert this line into his article is itself a little scary.

11 ( +11 / -0 )

Not sure I agree. I see Apple, Google, Microsoft, Redhat, etc. everywhere. In a sense Japan is now full of foreign companies and they may be circling the wagons to protect a few industries that they are fanatical about, i.e., the auto industry. I think if Japan lost a crown jewel auto company it would be a blow to the ego that may be unacceptable.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

The writer will be under attack from all parts of Japanese society for this truthful article.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

I think lawyers should have a duty of reserve and not be allowed to do PR campaigns in media about cases they are involved in.

I disagree: when the state is conducting a vendetta against your client you have to take all possible measures to ensure that the corrupt Japanese "justice" system is exposed for the farce that it is.

11 ( +11 / -0 )

interesting read, did anyone miss "Takashi Takano is the Representative Partner at the Law Office of Takashi Takano and a member of Carlos Ghosn’s defense team."

0 ( +0 / -0 )

As a proud Japanese citizen, this direction is concerning for many reasons. I believe that Japan has the ability to be a true international leader

I agree and well done for this brave and important article. So much potential if Japan can collectively choose to NOT go with expediency in these trying times, believe that at its core it has the strength to thrive in the outside world on a level playing field and once and for all shed the debilitating skins of inward thinking and behavior.

At the crossroads, like right now. Your move. We are all hoping, praying almost! Do what has to be done.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

@coskuri made the following comment, which is worth discussing:

I think lawyers should have a duty of reserve and not be allowed to do PR campaigns in media about cases they are involved in.

Well, yes, that would be a nice ideal.

EXCEPT this:

-- ever since Ghosn was detained, there have been countless leaks from the police and/or prosecutors about the case.

-- ever since Ghosn was detained, countless articles have been written in the press which clearly have been written by journalists who have talked to either the POLICE or PROSECUTORS!

The idea that the police and prosecutors are unassailable paragons of virtue is laughable!!

They depend on and, in fact, require the use of the press to convict the accused in advance of the trial!!!

Prosecutors and police, in Japan, are not the guys in the white hats!! They are ruthless executioners, determined to convict at all costs!!

But then they want to wrap their ruthless in some sort of sanctimonious saintly garb!!

Despicable!!!

11 ( +11 / -0 )

Gaijintraveller and zones2surf said it all....Takashi is doing his job.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

U are perfectly correct & honest, Mr Takano, Japan inc is now happening in Japan, I too am very sorry that this kind of road is happening. Japan is just talk but in real truth , a very close & unfair society that is very afraid of foreign people that have helped save them, in the case of Carlos. Japan inc is afraid of good intelligent and capable foreign operators because 80% of Japanese are just at at best able to copy, without good forward skills. That why Japan inc have to go this way. If 80% of Japanese are good & capable with open mind & heart Japan will survive unfortunately, Japan have wrote it's own death sentence. Japan will have a very nationalist future , which the world can see very clearly now. Talk is no more interesting for intelligent foreigners who want to help Japan. I fully agree with u. But I see no good improvement in any directions in Japan, I see a japan moving into it's small negative island. A country with back-stabbing & no moral or intergrity human beings is a country with no future regardless of any talks, talking is just lip service. Reality is what the world can see.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

That reality includes Japan’s treatment of my client, Mr Ghosn. On Nov 19 last year, he was arrested at a Tokyo airport and was subsequently denied the most basic legal rights and protections while being detained for over 130 days. Locked up in a small cell of a detention center in solitary confinement for months on end, he was repeatedly questioned by prosecutors – without the right to have a lawyer present – in an effort to force him into confessing to crimes he did not commit. Mr Ghosn was finally released on bail, but with extremely harsh conditions, such as being under surveillance camera 24 hours a day and even being prohibited from communicating with his wife. To me, there is no doubt this treatment is a clear violation of international human rights standards.

Any possibility of this being raised at the G20 summit?

7 ( +7 / -0 )

I command you sir for having the courage and humility to say the truth!! As an ex Nissan employee who did everything he could to keep NNA in California, but powers to be won!! I fully agree with your assessment of Mr. Ghosn, I truly respect what he did for Nissan however knowing how he was treated, I must say I would definitely think twice to compromise any action even unintentionally if I ever come back to Japan that would have the Japanese authority’s involved!!! It’s sad!! For such a beautiful country!!!

J. Sadri

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Kelly recently publicly questioned why Saikawa had not been arrested or similarly treated by prosecutors despite being in charge and being the person who oversaw and even approved many of the incidents under investigation.

Is "what about" an accepted defence strategy? Just because someone else maybe crooked, that is not proof of your innocence.

-6 ( +2 / -8 )

So you saying he didn’t do it? Or are you trying to alter the narrative in order to force the hand of foreign leaders at the G20 to give your client a pass?

I think we we can all agree that Japan takes a “unique” approach with their criminal justice process...but then again so do many countries, including the US. Where jail is not meant to reform the inmate and prepare them for the real world once released.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Ghosn's base salary was larger than all Toyota execs (10 of them) put together, and so I assume it was larger than all Nissan execs put together. Yet according to reports he still needed to use company funds for birthday parties and so on. Isn't that what it's about?

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Excellent very truthful article from Mr. Takano. This should be discussed at the G20 meeting to show the real Japan, not the fluff we often are presented with.

Still, I am glad that nissan is on a straight downward trajectory since their appalling treatment of their saviour Ghosn.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

I should note that it is only out of great respect for my country that I am raising this warning flag so that we can change course.

Then just raise your voice through Japanese media in Japanese rather than backstabbing through English-media and don't forget clarifying all those harsh conditions were proposed first by yourself to win the bail

as a "legendary bail undertaker"

-5 ( +0 / -5 )

So what exactly did Carlos Ghosn do wrong to cause this inhumane police intervention? What was his conviction?

3 ( +4 / -1 )

On Nov 19 last year,he was arrested ..... Mr Ghosn was finally released on bail,but with extremely harsh conditions,such as being under surveillance camera 24 hours a day and even being prohibited from communicating with his wife

This section is misleading in regards to to the point about Ghosns wife. As we saw in the media coverage of the walks in the park of Mr Ghosn and wife Carole,along with his daughters,they not only communicated,they were living together after his first release on bail. It was the conditions imposed upon his second release on bail after another of his multiple arrests that included the (currently still in effect I believe)restrictions on communicating with his wife.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Well stated. And well timed before the G20. Japan Inc. is back and this mentality is not healthy for Japan. It leads to xenophobia.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

From what we hear in the news, I can definitely tell that the way Mr. Ghosn is being treated is not positive for Japan. It has been a very long investigation without a trial yet but he already received a life distruction from of penalty, Justice is normally served when the suspect remains innocent until conviction.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Very brave statement pointing straight to the government!

It is becoming more and more clear who is the whistle-blower and why he was not taken in! No other reason for not arresting Saikawa than that!

The main argument for holding Ghosn was not to alter evidence. How about Saikawa? The prosecutors trust him or what?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

The Carlos's case is a very fishy case, it stinks of bad Japanese dealings and lies against a foreigner who cannot read or write Japanese. This case is full of jealousy & back-stabbing from saikawa & his gang. Pls make this case, in the G20 meeting. Nissan's ceo have to come down like his company or maybe Nissan should change it's name to saikawa company not Nissan.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

The merger between Nissan and Renault is (in my opinion) one of the worst decisions that Nissan made.

Even though Nissan - the Japanese manufacturer is not really on par with the like of Toyota and even Mazda (maybe) in terms of build quality and reputation, Japanese auto makers are still way ahead of thier french counterparts especially with reliability.

Anyways, to cut short a disaster for Nissan - this coming from a Nissan owner myself - I hope they pull out of it sooner rather than later!

Nissan we need you independent AND stronger than ever!

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Hmmmmmmm now we can understand WHY? the WWII NUKE...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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