Not a Ghosn of a chance of bail

New twist puts Nis­san boss even deeper into le­gal trou­ble in Ja­pan

Sunday Times - - Business News - By MA JIE AND KAE INOUE

● Car­los Ghosn’s chances of get­ting out of jail any­time soon took a se­ri­ous blow on Fri­day af­ter he was in­dicted for a sec­ond time by Ja­panese pros­e­cu­tors build­ing their case against the fallen car ex­ec­u­tive, who was de­tained al­most two months ago.

The ousted Nis­san Mo­tor chair was in­dicted Fri­day for acts in­clud­ing tem­po­rar­ily trans­fer­ring per­sonal trad­ing losses to Nis­san in 2008, as well as for un­der­stat­ing his com­pen­sa­tion for three years, up to March 2018. Last month, he was in­dicted for un­der­re­port­ing his in­come for an ear­lier pe­riod. His lawyers ap­plied for bail, while ac­knowl­edg­ing the slim chance of suc­cess.

The lat­est le­gal twist pulls Ghosn deeper into the Ja­panese crim­i­nal sys­tem, which grants author­i­ties sweep­ing pow­ers to keep sus­pects locked up for an ex­tended pe­riod. The time be­hind bars has al­ready taken its toll on Ghosn. He ap­peared in pub­lic for the first time on Tues­day look­ing grey and gaunt, and was led into a court­room hand­cuffed and with a rope tied around his waist.

Pro­longed de­ten­tion

Ghosn’s wife, Ca­role, painted a glum pic­ture of her hus­band’s state, say­ing she’s fear­ful for his health and that he’s been de­nied ac­cess to his fam­ily since the Novem­ber 19 ar­rest in Tokyo. Ghosn is be­ing held in a cell with a toi­let and a wash basin. His lawyers said this week that he’s been granted a big­ger room and what they called a Western­style bed.

It’s not un­com­mon in Ja­pan for sus­pects to en­dure lengthy pre-trial de­ten­tions. Sus­pects are of­ten re-ar­rested on sus­pi­cion of new charges to keep them in cus­tody while pros­e­cu­tors at­tempt to build a case, and bail is the ex­cep­tion.

On Tues­day, Ghosn’s lawyers said their client might re­main be­hind bars un­til a trial be­gins, which may not hap­pen for an­other six months. Pros­e­cu­tors said on Fri­day that Ghosn’s de­ten­tion could last for an­other two months.

Mul­ti­ple pass­ports

Ghosn holds French, Le­banese and Brazil­ian pass­ports and his chil­dren live in the US.

His wife said that her hus­band is liv­ing in “harsh con­di­tions” and en­dur­ing “un­fair treat­ment,” and that author­i­ties have not let the fam­ily speak with med­i­cal per­son­nel at the de­ten­tion cen­tre.

Lawyers said on Thurs­day the ex­ec­u­tive had de­vel­oped a fever, which has sub­sided since. A doc­tor is tend­ing to Ghosn, who has been worn down by the long de­ten­tion and in­ter­ro­ga­tions.

In his court ap­pear­ance, Ghosn gave a force­ful re­but­tal to the al­le­ga­tions against him, say­ing he has been wrong­fully ac­cused, is in­no­cent and the ac­cu­sa­tions are mer­it­less. An in­dict­ment in Ja­pan al­lows pros­e­cu­tors to lay for­mal charges, a step that takes them close to trial. Since Ghosn’s ini­tial ar­rest, pros­e­cu­tors have re­peat­edly ex­tended his de­ten­tion and re-ar­rested him over new al­le­ga­tions.

Ja­pan’s pros­e­cu­tors have faced crit­i­cism for a lack of clar­ity and com­mu­ni­ca­tion on how they are han­dling the case, with Ghosn held in de­ten­tion with­out charge for longer than would be per­mit­ted in the UK for a sus­pected ter­ror­ist. If and when Ghosn is al­lowed out on bail, his move­ments are likely to be re­stricted to his home or a ho­tel, and he’ll need a court’s per­mis­sion to leave the coun­try, le­gal ex­perts have said.

If proven, each of Ghosn’s al­leged of­fences may carry a sen­tence of as much as 10 years, pros­e­cu­tors have said. Nis­san has also ac­cused Ghosn of mis­us­ing com­pany funds, in­clud­ing over homes from Brazil to Le­banon, and hir­ing his sis­ter on an ad­vi­sory con­tract. The pros­e­cu­tors haven’t charged him over these al­le­ga­tions.

At the court, Ghosn said his ac­tions were backed by man­agers in­side the com­pany as well as ex­ter­nal lawyers. For ex­am­ple, his re­tire­ment pay­ments were re­viewed by le­gal ex­perts in­side Nis­san as well as in­de­pen­dent lawyers, and showed no in­ten­tion of break­ing the law. An­other ac­cu­sa­tion — that he rolled per­sonal in­vest­ment losses onto Nis­san — came at no cost to the com­pany, Ghosn said.

He said he al­ways acted with in­tegrity and had never been ac­cused of any wrong­do­ing in his pro­fes­sional ca­reer.

Ghosn’s aide Greg Kelly, who was ar­rested at the same time over his al­leged role in help­ing the ex­ec­u­tive un­der­state his pay, was re­leased on bail of 70 mil­lion yen (R8.7m) on De­cem­ber 25. Kelly has also de­nied wrong­do­ing, say­ing he will re­store his name in court. Nis­san has dis­missed Kelly from his role as a rep­re­sen­ta­tive di­rec­tor.

The ar­rest of the high-fly­ing ex­ec­u­tive at Tokyo’s Haneda air­port has jolted the world’s big­gest auto al­liance, rais­ing ques­tions over whether the two-decade part­ner­ship be­tween Nis­san and French part­ner Re­nault will sur­vive his down­fall. While Nis­san dis­missed Ghosn as chair shortly af­ter his ar­rest, Re­nault has re­tained him as chair and CEO, say­ing it needs ev­i­dence of his wrong­do­ing.

Ghosn has been widely cred­ited with sav­ing Nis­san from fail­ure in the late 1990s and bring­ing it to­gether with Re­nault.

His ar­rest came af­ter a months-long in­ves­ti­ga­tion by Nis­san into his con­duct, a probe that was largely kept from its French part­ner. That lack of trans­parency and con­cern that Nis­san will use Ghosn’s ab­sence to push for more power within the al­liance has height­ened ten­sions be­tween the two car­mak­ers.

Nis­san’s board re­moved Ghosn from the post of chair on Novem­ber 22 and ejected US cit­i­zen Kelly from his po­si­tion as a rep­re­sen­ta­tive di­rec­tor. Re­nault, which is the big­gest share­holder in Nis­san, has in­stead ap­pointed in­terim re­place­ments.

Re­nault’s most pow­er­ful share­holder, the French state, says Ghosn is pre­sumed in­no­cent un­til proven guilty and has de­manded Nis­san share the ev­i­dence it has col­lected against him. Re­nault’s board met on Thurs­day and con­firmed com­pen­sa­tion paid to di­rec­tors in the past two years com­plied with the law, while mak­ing no de­ci­sion on Ghosn’s role at the car­maker.

Pic­ture: Ky­odo/via Reuters

A court sketch by Nob­u­toshi Kat­suyama shows ousted Nis­san chair Car­los Ghosn dur­ing a hear­ing on the rea­son for his con­tin­ued de­ten­tion, at Tokyo Dis­trict Court in Ja­pan.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.