Japanese prosecutors ask judges to question ex-Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn's wife: NHK

Former Nissan Chairman Carlos Ghosn (left) and his wife Carole outside his lawyer's office on April 3, 2019.  Prosecutors in Tokyo have asked judges to question the latter in connection with funds allegedly misappropriated by Ghosn.
Former Nissan Chairman Carlos Ghosn (left) and his wife Carole outside his lawyer's office on April 3, 2019. Prosecutors in Tokyo have asked judges to question the latter in connection with funds allegedly misappropriated by Ghosn.PHOTO: AFP

TOKYO (REUTERS) - Prosecutors in Tokyo have asked judges to question Carlos Ghosn's wife in connection with funds allegedly misappropriated by the former Nissan Motor chairman, Japan's public broadcaster NHK said on Sunday (April 7).

Prosecutors arrested Ghosn again last Thursday on suspicion he had tried to enrich himself at the Nissan's expense, in another dramatic twist that his lawyers said was an attempt to muzzle him.

NHK said prosecutors suspect that Ghosn siphoned off part of the payments through a company where his wife, Carole, is an executive to purchase a yacht and a boat.

The prosecutors asked her to meet them for voluntary questioning as an unsworn witness, but the request was turned down, which prompted them to ask judges to question her on their behalf before they open the first hearing on the allegations, the broadcaster said.

Such a request gives judges the power to question on a mandatory basis witnesses who refuse to testify, according to NHK.

Prosecutors were not immediately available for comment on the NHK report.

Meanwhile, Mrs Ghosn has flown to Paris to appeal to the French government to help her husband and said the government “should do more for him”, the Financial Times reported on Sunday.

“I think the French government should do more for him. I don’t think they’ve done enough. I don’t think he’s had enough support and he’s calling for assistance. As a French citizen, it should be a right," Mrs Ghosn told the FT in an interview before boarding her flight out of Japan late on Friday.

Ghosn's lead lawyer, Mr Junichiro Hironaka, said last Thursday that prosecutors confiscated Ghosn's mobile phone, documents, notebooks and diaries, along with his wife's passport and mobile phone.

 
 
 

Under Japanese law, prosecutors will be able to hold Ghosn for up to 22 days without charge. The fresh arrest opens up the possibility that he will be interrogated again without his lawyer present, as is the norm in Japan.

The additional charge would likely prolong Ghosn's trial, which is expected to begin later this year, his lawyer has said, adding that loss of access to Ghosn's trial-related documents could put his client at a disadvantage in fighting his case.

Ghosn was first arrested in Tokyo in November and faces charges of financial misconduct and aggravated breach of trust over allegedly failing to report around US$82 million (S$111 million) in salary and temporarily transferring personal financial losses onto Nissan's books during the financial crisis.

Released on US$9 million bail on March 6, he says he is the victim of a boardroom coup.

Sources told Reuters earlier last week that French automaker and Nissan partner Renault had alerted French prosecutors after uncovering suspect payments to a Renault-Nissan business partner in Oman while Ghosn was chief executive of the French automaker.

Ghosn's spokesman has previously said payments of US$32 million made over nine years were rewards for the Oman firm being a top Nissan dealer. Such dealer incentives were not directed by Ghosn and the funds were not used to pay any personal debt, the spokesman said.

Nissan had previously established that its own regional subsidiary made questionable payments of more than US$30 million to the Oman distributor, Suhail Bahwan Automobiles.

Evidence sent to French prosecutors late last week showed that much of the cash was subsequently channelled to a Lebanese company controlled by Ghosn associates, the sources said.