Ex-Nissan chief faces 2 new charges of financial misconduct

PHOTO: REUTERS

Prosecutors also indict carmaker, aide over alleged under-reporting of Ghosn's pay

TOKYO • Tokyo prosecutors have filed two new charges of financial misconduct against former Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn, meaning the auto tycoon is unlikely to be leaving his jail cell soon.

Lawyers for the former jet-setting executive filed a bail application hours after the new charges were revealed yesterday, but have acknowledged that he will probably be detained until a trial.

Ghosn, 64, denies any wrongdoing and argued in a dramatic first court appearance on Tuesday that he has been "wrongly accused and unfairly detained".

He was already facing a first charge for allegedly under-reporting his compensation over five years to the tune of five billion yen (S$62.4 million) in official documents to shareholders.

The charges filed yesterday alleged that the under-reporting continued for another three years.

And they include a charge of "aggravated breach of trust" over a complex alleged scheme in which Ghosn is said to have tried to transfer losses on foreign exchange contracts to Nissan's books.

The charges filed yesterday allege that the under-reporting continued for another three years.

And they include a charge of "aggravated breach of trust" over a complex alleged scheme in which Ghosn is said to have tried to transfer losses on foreign exchange contracts to Nissan's books.

As part of the scheme, he is accused of also using company funds to repay a Saudi acquaintance who put up collateral for the contracts.

Prosecutors also filed charges yesterday against Nissan and Ghosn aide Greg Kelly over the additional three years of under-reporting pay.

"We took these steps today because we believed that they are cases worthy of indictment and going to trial," said deputy chief prosecutor Shin Kukimoto.

A prosecutor's office spokesman said charges against Ghosn carry a maximum prison sentence of 15 years.

The breach of trust charge is regarded as particularly serious, and Ghosn's lawyer Motonari Otsuru admitted on Tuesday it would be "very difficult" to secure bail for his client.

"In general in such cases in Japan, it is indeed the case that bail is not approved before the first trial does take place," he said, adding that it could be six months before the case comes before a judge.

Ghosn has appeared in public just once since his shock Nov 19 arrest, during the Tuesday court hearing called after his lawyers requested that judges explain the tycoon's ongoing detention.

 
 
 

One of the most recognisable foreign executives in Japan, Ghosn was led into Tokyo District Court in handcuffs and with a rope around his waist and was noticeably thinner.

He spoke in a strong voice and said he had acted "honourably, legally and with the knowledge and approval of the appropriate executives inside the company".

The judge said his ongoing detention was justified because he poses a flight risk and could tamper with evidence if released.

A request filed the same day by his lawyers to end his detention was rejected.

Ghosn's prolonged detention has put the spotlight on Japan's justice system, which has come in for some international criticism.

With each allegation against Ghosn, prosecutors can seek up to 22 days of detention to investigate the claims - the period for the aggravated breach of trust allegation expired yesterday.

And with each formal charge, prosecutors can hold Ghosn for two months of pre-trial detention, which is renewable.

Nissan said yesterday it has filed its own criminal complaint against its former chief "on the basis of Ghosn's misuse of a significant amount of the company's funds".

It said it took the charges filed against the firm "extremely seriously" and was continuing its investigation into the case.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 12, 2019, with the headline 'Ex-Nissan chief faces 2 new charges of financial misconduct'. Print Edition | Subscribe