Ghosn lawyer requests bail after ex-Nissan chairman indicted for 4th time

Prosecutors are looking into allegations that Carlos Ghosn funnelled funds from Nissan to a dealership in the Middle East and siphoned off around US$5 million for his personal use.
Prosecutors are looking into allegations that Carlos Ghosn funnelled funds from Nissan to a dealership in the Middle East and siphoned off around US$5 million for his personal use.PHOTO: AFP

TOKYO (REUTERS, AFP) – Japanese prosecutors indicted Carlos Ghosn on Monday (April 22) on another charge of aggravated breach of trust, a Tokyo court said, the fourth charge against the former Nissan Motor chairman which his lawyers met immediately with a bail request.

The charge came on the day Ghosn’s latest detention period was set to expire. Ghosn had been out on bail when authorities arrested him for a fourth time on April 4 on suspicion he enriched himself at a cost of US$5 million (S$6.8 million) to the automaker.

“We are confident that we have the evidence to successfully prosecute all four cases,” an official from the prosecutor’s office said at a briefing after the indictment was announced.

Ghosn has denied all four of his charges, which include understating his income, and said he is the victim of a boardroom coup. He has accused former colleagues of “backstabbing”, describing them as selfish rivals bent on derailing a closer alliance between Nissan and its top shareholder, France’s Renault SA.

The case has rocked the global auto industry while shining a harsh light on Japan’s judicial system, which critics refer to as “hostage justice” as defendants who deny their charges are often not granted bail.

Under Japanese law, prosecutors are able to hold suspects for up to 22 days without charge and interrogate them without their lawyers present.

In accordance with these terms, prosecutors had to indict or release him by Monday.  According to the latest indictment, Ghosn caused a total of US$5 million in losses to Nissan from July 2017 through July 2018.  During that period, prosecutors allege two separate payments of US$5 million were made from the account of a Nissan subsidiary into the account of an overseas dealership.

A total of US$5 million was subsequently transferred from the dealership’s account to another account in which Ghosn had an interest. 

Earlier on Monday, Nissan said it had filed a criminal complaint against the former chairman in relation to the matter, saying it had determined that some of its overseas payments had been ordered by Ghosn for his personal enrichment.

The payments were “not necessary from a business standpoint”, Nissan said in a statement. “Such misconduct is completely unacceptable, and Nissan is requesting appropriately strict penalties.” 

Ghosn’s lawyers were due to speak to reporters on Monday. 

 
 
 

Before Ghosn’s latest arrest, he had been out on US$9 million bail for 30 days. He is now being held in the same Tokyo detention centre where he was detained for 108 days following his initial arrest on the tarmac at a Tokyo airport in November.

It is unclear when the court will decide on his latest bail request.

Kyodo news agency previously reported, without citing sources, that Nissan funds had been shifted through a car dealer in Oman to the account of a company Ghosn effectively owned.

Sources have previously told Reuters that Renault had alerted French prosecutors after uncovering payments it deemed suspect to a partner in Oman.

Evidence sent to French prosecutors showed much of the cash was channelled to a Lebanese company controlled by associates of Ghosn, who holds Lebanese citizenship, the sources told Reuters.  Ghosn’s French lawyer denied the allegations.

'WORST ENEMY'

Japan's Supreme Court has already rejected appeals by Ghosn's lawyers against his prolonged detention.

His wife Carole has also been questioned by prosecutors in Tokyo.

She has also denied any wrongdoing and been active in the media in recent days, writing an opinion piece in the Washington Post calling on United States President Donald Trump to lean on Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe to allow her husband to obtain bail.

Ghosn's lawyers have expression reservations that he will receive a fair trial, as 99 per cent of all cases that come to trial end in a conviction.

The executive who ran three huge car companies has gone from a life of luxury and private jets to a small cell.

Nissan says an internal investigation has uncovered "substantial evidence of blatantly unethical conduct" by the former boss.

He has already been stripped of his position on the board at Nissan and resigned from the head of Renault and the three-way alliance the two companies share with Mitsubishi Motors.

Mrs Ghosn says she is concerned about her husband's health in conditions in the Japanese jail that Ghosn himself said he would not wish on his "worst enemy".

His lawyers in Paris have urged the French government to insist he be tried in France, as a fair trial would "only be possible" there, according to them.