CNBC Exclusive: Carole Ghosn, Wife of Former Nissan Chairman Carlos Ghosn, Speaks with CNBC’s Sara Eisen in Interview Airing Today
WHEN: Interview Aired Today, Wednesday, June 5, 2019
WHERE: CNBC’s “Closing Bell”
The following is the unofficial transcript of a CNBC EXCLUSIVE interview with Carole Ghosn, Wife of Former Nissan Chairman Carlos Ghosn, and CNBC’s Sara Eisen which aired on CNBC’s “Closing Bell” (M-F 3PM – 5PM) today, Wednesday, June 5th. The following is a link to video from the interview on CNBC.com:
Carole Ghosn: The Day They Arrested Carlos Was 'Horrific'
CAROLE GHOSN: The day he got arrested I was with him in the apartment. And it was a horrific day. They-- they stormed in at 5:50 in the morning. Almost twenty prosecutors came into the apartment and they told Carlos, "You're arrested." And they-- they made him get dressed. And as he was leaving, he tried to take a piece of chocolate to put in his pocket, and they wouldn't let him take it. And then he wanted to take a book and they said, "No book, no chocolate." So, I was outraged. I said, "Why can't he take that?" And he said, "This is Japan. These are our rules." And then they took Carlos. And I was left four hours in the apartment. And there was a moment I wanted to go to the bathroom. They-- they made this woman go into the bathroom with me to watch me.
SARA EISEN: With you?
CAROLE GHOSN: With me. And I went in four times. She would do a body check. And she would, you know, check me. And then I wanted to take a shower. I was in my pajamas. I wanted to get dressed. She was in there, in the shower. And she even handed me the towel.
SARA EISEN: Why do you think that you were getting this kind of treatment?
CAROLE GHOSN: I think they wanted to humiliate us. And to, I guess to intimidate and humiliate us. But that's what it was all about.
SARA EISEN: And this is the second time he was arrested? First time goes back to November?
CAROLE GHOSN: Correct. Carlos gets off the plane in Japan. And he-- he-- he goes in to get his visa checked. And then they take him to a room. They say, "Something's wrong with your visa." And there was a prosecutor sitting there. And he tells him, "You're under arrest." He doesn't tell him why. He takes him to the detention centers, no questions asked, and they throw him in jail. Two days later, the French ambassador comes to visit Carlos. And Carlos says, "Please, could you tell Nissan to send a lawyer? The-- you know, I'm arrested." And he said, "Oh, no, no. Nissan are-- they're the ones who are accusing you." And so, Carlos spent, altogether, 130 days in detention.
SARA EISEN: What kind of conditions was it?
CAROLE GHOSN: He had the lights on all the time, day and night. They took his watch away, so, they wanted to disorient him. And it was, like-- kind of an emotional and mental abuse.
SARA EISEN: Did you have any idea that anything like this would happen through--
CAROLE GHOSN: No.
SARA EISEN: --the years?
CAROLE GHOSN: He had no clue. He was, you know, betrayed, stabbed in his b-- in the back. Nothing. And I wish, you know, if they really felt that there was a problem, why didn't the auditors of Nissan go to the board and say something? None of it-- it was all hidden. It was all taken by surprise. And he gets arrested and takes-- you know, is taken to the detention center. No warning. I mean, is this how we run a company?
SARA EISEN: How long do you think that was in the making?
CAROLE GHOSN: From what we know now, it started in the spring of 2018.
SARA EISEN: Just a revolt internally against his ideas?
CAROLE GHOSN: Yes. And I think they went to the prosecutors and, you know, who-- who knows who else was involved.
SARA EISEN: Did he ever confide in you over the years about worries about the company’s—
CAROLE GHOSN: No.
SARA EISEN: -- board?
CAROLE GHOSN: No. Nothing.
SARA EISEN: Anything?
CAROLE GHOSN: I think they took him by surprise. It was a total shock. And I'm sure this-- this could've been dealt internally. This did not need all this going to, you know, to a detention center and having these criminal charges. I mean, this was something that the company could've dealt with.
SARA EISEN: What do you mean?
CAROLE GHOSN: I mean, I think-- n-- I don't think. Now I-- we know it's a conspiracy. Nissan did not want this merger. A few people within Nissan decided to get rid of my husband, that that was the easiest way not to do the merger. But, I mean, it didn't have to be. There was-- maybe a more civilized way of doing it.
SARA EISEN: And now that you see the proposed Fiat Renault merger?
CAROLE GHOSN: Now--
SARA EISEN: What do you think?
CAROLE GHOSN: I mean, it's clear how Nissan doesn't want to be involved and they want nothing to do with it. I mean, I think with time, we will see more clarity on this story. And people now realize that there-- this was a conspiracy against my husband.
SARA EISEN: And what do you tell the people who look at some of the allegations? Personal use of money through company funds. And there's article, after article, who wonder whether this was a big, you know, criminal act from a corporate--
CAROLE GHOSN: You know—
SARA EISEN: --titan?
CAROLE GHOSN: --they-- what they did, they took part of the truth and then they twisted it to make it look negative. And-- and it's been vicious. And it's not true. And-- and it's shocking how they were able to destroy my husband's image. I think they did it on purpose. They said, ‘We're going to fight this in the trial and we're going to do this image. And we're going to destroy his image.’ And, you know, one day with time, the truth will come out. And you will-- everyone will see that it's not true. These accusations are all twisted. This didn't happen this way.
SARA EISEN: And you think it all goes back to Japan Inc.?
CAROLE GHOSN: I think it all goes back to Japan Inc. Absolutely.
SARA EISEN: And this pushback against Nissan Renault?
CAROLE GHOSN: Exactly. They didn't feel they wanted to be part of a French company and to lose their identity. And I don't think they were planning-- you know, from what I understood from my husband, he didn't have the intentions. He wanted to keep separate identities. And I wish they'd approached him and told him the truth, ‘We don't want this,’ instead of doing this. Personally, I'm afraid to go to Japan. I will go because my husband's there. But, as a tourist or as a businessman, I would be aware. Look at my husband, a businessman who saved Nissan from bankruptcy, who spent twenty years dedicated to this company and made it flourish and helped the economy of Japan. And they arrest him by surprise? They don't even question him. And then he spends this much time in a detention center and we still don't know the end results. We don't know if he's going to get a fair trial.
SARA EISEN: So, you've been making this public, including speaking to us. What sort of reception have you gotten when you've gone around the world to governments?
CAROLE GHOSN: People are very supportive of this cause. I'd like to see more involvement of the government. Because this is not just-- this is political. This is-- this is bigger than Carlos' story. This is about, you know, two governments-- trying to-- to merge a company. And my husband was the collateral damage in this.
SARA EISEN: You're talking France?
CAROLE GHOSN: France and Japan. But, also, I-- I am an American citizen. I would like, you know, President Trump as my president, to when he's at the G20, to address these issues with Prime Minister Abe. There's three things. First, I would like my husband to get a fair trial. And I want them to respect this presumption of innocence, which in Japan, we feel that as soon as he landed on that Japanese soil on November 19th, he was guilty before proven innocent. And the third thing, I'd like to speak to my husband. I mean, I miss him, dearly. And I wish I could go and be with him at the hardest time of our lives and to take care of him.
SARA EISEN: And so, what does the timeline look like from here? So, he faces--
CAROLE GHOSN: Well, now--
SARA EISEN: --pre-trial?
CAROLE GHOSN: They-- they said the pre-trial h-- has just started. And next year is the trial. And it may-- it may take one and two years for all this to end, which is-- sounds so far away. And, you know, we're-- when you're so-- you don't know what the future holds and it doesn't look like it's a positive future, you live with so much anxiety and fear. It's hard.