TOKYO — After four decades of dedicating himself to Nissan Motor Co., Hitoshi Kawaguchi found himself in 2018 suddenly troubled about the company's direction.
Carlos Ghosn, then chairman of Nissan and its French partner, Renault, was maneuvering to orchestrate a merger between the companies.
But Kawaguchi, senior vice president in charge of government relations at the time, and other senior Nissan executives thought that was a bad idea, he testified this month in the criminal trial of their onetime colleague, former human resources officer and Nissan director Greg Kelly.
As a clique of powerful executives grew concerned about Ghosn's integration plans, Kawaguchi said, they also secretly worked to report allegations of wrongdoing by Ghosn to prosecutors, leading to the longtime leader's November 2018 arrest.
The executives met two or three times a week in a private lunchroom to consult about the matter, Kawaguchi testified.
But Kawaguchi maintained that these were two separate issues — the merger they didn't want and the allegations of financial improprieties by Ghosn.
"We never fabricated any piece of evidence to substantiate this crime as a way to stop a merger," Kawaguchi said in court.
His testimony nonetheless could lend credence to Ghosn's contention that the criminal charges against him in Japan were concocted by Kawaguchi and a small cabal inside Nissan to block the merger he planned.