Business

Carlos Ghosn to finally have his day in Tokyo court

Bloomberg, Kyodo

Carlos Ghosn will finally see the inside of a court room next week, almost two months after his arrest on financial crimes.

The embattled car titan will attend a hearing of the Tokyo District Court on Tuesday, according to his chief lawyer, Motonari Otsuru. The session was called after Ghosn’s legal team requested an explanation on why the former Nissan Motor Co. chairman — who was taken into custody Nov. 19, and has had his detention extended repeatedly — remains in jail.

The request means that a reason for the detention, which was extended for another 10 days on Monday, must be disclosed within five days. The court said Friday it has decided to begin necessary procedures from 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday.

The confinement of Ghosn, who was credited with saving Nissan when it was teetering on the brink of bankruptcy in the late 1990s, has sparked overseas criticism regarding the possibility his detention could be legally prolonged indefinitely and the absence of lawyers during interrogations, a norm in Japan.

While Ghosn has been indicted by prosecutors on allegations of underreporting his compensation, the unusual length of the detention and the lack of clarity provided on the case has drawn criticism.

The architect behind Nissan’s alliance with France’s Renault SA, Ghosn was initially held without charge for longer than would be permitted in the United Kingdom for a suspected terrorist. His arrest has rocked the world’s largest auto pact amid speculation it was part of a coup by forces within Nissan aimed at staving off a merger of the carmakers.

The two-month saga has taken several twists and turns, with Ghosn re-arrested on fresh, potentially more serious charges on Dec. 21, just when it looked like he might be able to apply for bail. Prosecutors have accused him of transferring personal trading losses to Nissan, but have yet to indict him on this allegation. In Japan, indictment paves the way for prosecutors to lay formal charges.

Nissan has also been indicted over underreporting of Ghosn’s income, while his former aide, Greg Kelly — a former Nissan representative director — was released on bail Dec. 25. He is alleged to have helped the car industry legend underreport his compensation from the carmaker by billions of yen. Both Ghosn and Kelly have denied the allegations through their lawyers.

Ghosn’s downfall has raised questions about the future of the decades-old alliance. While Nissan dismissed him as chairman shortly after his arrest, Renault retained Ghosn as chairman and chief executive officer, saying it needs evidence of his wrongdoing.

His arrest came after a monthslong investigation by Nissan into his conduct, a probe that was largely kept secret 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 automakers.

If proven, each of Ghosn’s alleged offenses may carry a sentence of as much as 10 years, prosecutors have said. Nissan has also accused Ghosn of misusing company funds, including in connection with homes from Brazil to Lebanon and for hiring his sister on an advisory contract.