Tokyo prosecutors on Friday charged former Nissan Motor Co. Chairman Carlos Ghosn with two additional counts of financial misconduct, a move that prompted his lawyers later in the day to seek his release on bail following his arrest in November.
The 64-year-old was charged with aggravated breach of trust in relation to the alleged transfer of private investment losses to Nissan amid the 2008 global financial crisis, and for understating his remuneration in the three fiscal years through March last year.
The prosecutors also indicted former Nissan Representative Director Greg Kelly and Nissan itself for the alleged misstatement of Ghosn’s remuneration.
Ghosn, who denies the allegations, has shown no signs of backing down. He declared his innocence at an open hearing at the Tokyo District Court on Tuesday that was held at his request to seek an explanation for his prolonged detention.
Following the latest indictment, Ghosn’s defense counsel filed a request to the court to seek his release on bail.
But his hopes of being granted bail appear dim, with his chief lawyer admitting at a recent news conference that his client could stay in detention for at least another six months until his trial begins, citing the complexity of a case involving documents in both Japanese and English.
Ghosn has remained in custody at the Tokyo Detention House since Tokyo prosecutors arrested him on Nov. 19 along with close American aide Greg Kelly, who has been released on bail, for allegedly understating his remuneration in Nissan securities reports submitted to Japanese regulators during a five-year period through March 2015.
He was then served a fresh arrest warrant on the same charge that covered the three years through March 2018. The sum of the remuneration that was allegedly underreported totals about ¥9 billion ($83 million).
He was served a third arrest warrant on Dec. 21 for allegedly shifting a currency swap contract with losses worth ¥1.85 billion to Nissan in 2008 and causing damage to the company by having it pay $14.7 million to a Saudi businessman, who guaranteed credit for Ghosn, in the following years.
Ghosn admits the contract was temporarily transferred but said Nissan incurred no losses. He also said the payments to the businessman, Khaled Al-Juffali, via a Nissan subsidiary, were compensation for taking care of difficult business problems in the Middle East.
The prosecutors, meanwhile, believe Ghosn committed aggravated breach of trust the moment he transferred the contract to Nissan.
The arrest and detention of Ghosn, once among the most celebrated executives in Japan, has sparked international criticism of Japan’s justice system, which effectively allows suspects to be held indefinitely and questioned without a lawyer present.
Friday marked the last day of Ghosn’s most recent detention period approved by the Tokyo District Court, and prosecutors had to decide whether to indict or release him.
According to one of his lawyers, Ghosn developed a high fever earlier this week while in detention, but his health has improved.
Ghosn fell ill Wednesday evening, and his family in Paris issued a statement the following day expressing their concern and asking Japanese authorities to provide information on his health.
“I recently learned that my husband is suffering from a high fever at the detention center in Tokyo, but my information is limited to news reports as no one in his family has been allowed to contact him since November 19,” the statement by Ghosn’s wife Carole said.
“I am pleading with the Japanese authorities to provide us with any information at all about my husband’s health. We are fearful and very worried his recovery will be complicated while he continues to endure such harsh conditions and unfair treatment,” it said.
Ghosn’s lawyers are now able to meet him. They were unable to do so on Thursday as a doctor at the Tokyo Detention House said he needed some rest.
Kelly, in contrast, was released on bail on Dec. 25 and his lawyer said Friday he has since undergone surgery for spinal stenosis at a hospital in Ibaraki Prefecture and moved to a residence approved by the court. Before his arrest, he had been scheduled to undergo surgery on Dec. 7 in Tennessee, according to his family.
IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5