'Unfairly detained': Ex-Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn protests innocence

Former Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn said he had been 'wrongly accused and unfairly detained' at a high-profile court hearing in Japan, his first appearance since his arrest in November rocked the business world.

Entering the court handcuffed and with a rope around his waist, the once-revered titan of the auto industry mounted a passionate defence against a string of financial misconduct allegations.

The 64-year-old was thinner -- his family says he has lost up to 20 kilogrammes (44 pounds) due to the rice-based diet in his Tokyo detention centre -- and his hair was greying. He appeared in a dark suit without a tie and wore dark green plastic slippers.

"I have been wrongly accused and unfairly detained based on meritless and unsubstantiated accusations," he told the Tokyo District Court in a clear and steady voice.

Throughout proceedings, he showed no emotion and mostly faced forward or looked down, glancing occasionally at the gallery in the packed courtroom as journalists and sketch artists rushed in and out.

In a career spanning decades, during which he won praise for turning around the struggling Japanese car maker, he said he had "always acted with integrity" and had never before been accused of any wrongdoing.

"I have acted honourably, legally and with the knowledge and approval of the appropriate executives inside the company," stressed Ghosn.

From the moment on November 19 that prosecutors stormed his private jet at a Tokyo airport, the twists and turns of the Ghosn case have gripped Japan and the business world.

(with news agency inputs)