Business / Corporate

Ghosn's first full trial unlikely to convene until next spring, his lawyers say

by Satoshi Sugiyama

Staff Writer

A lawyer representing embattled former Nissan Motor Co. Chairman Carlos Ghosn speculated Thursday that the first full trial in the case would probably not begin until next spring.

The attorney, Junichiro Hironaka, was uncertain how long the trial would last and also revealed Ghosn’s defense team would ask the court later in the day to grant a meeting with his wife, Carole Ghosn.

They are not allowed to see each other as part of the bail conditions set following the auto executive’s fourth arrest and indictment.

“We are thinking of proposing a method that the court is likely to accept, like having the meeting take place at a lawyer’s office,” Hironaka told a news conference Thursday afternoon.

His remarks followed a pretrial hearing at the Tokyo District Court. Introduced in 2005 as part of the country’s judicial reforms, pretrial hearings are intended to streamline criminal trial procedures by having defense and prosecutors clarify points of contention in the presence of a judge.

Ghosn, accompanied by his defense team and with strikingly gray hair, arrived at the court wearing a dark suit, a white shirt and a tie.

Hironaka said Thursday’s pretrial hearing pertained to Ghosn’s alleged transfer of private investment losses to Nissan during the 2008 global financial crisis. The prosecutors alleged Ghosn orchestrated the transfer of ¥1.6 billion in payments to a firm run by Saudi businessman Khaled Juffali.

The prosecutors recently revised one of the indictments, alleging Juffali paid about ¥2 billion to Ghosn.

Hironaka said the defense team had asked the prosecutors at the pretrial hearing to explain the amendment to the indictment. Prosecutors declined to provide an immediate answer, which resulted in the court ordering the prosecutors to provide a response to the defense team’s question within two weeks.

The court additionally ordered the prosecutors to disclose further evidence by June 21 pertaining to Ghosn’s dealings with Juffali, as well as from the latest indictment involving the alleged misappropriating of ¥1.7 billion in payments to Nissan’s exclusive distributor in Oman, Suhail Bahwan Automobiles. Ghosn was rearrested and indicted for the fourth time in April over the Oman allegations.

“We (the defense team) insisted on speeding up the process (and the disclosure of evidence) by the end of May,” Hironaka said.

Prosecutors believe some of the money was siphoned off to a Lebanese investment firm he effectively owns for his own personal use and for his family, including his wife Carole Ghosn.

Even though Carole Ghosn has not been arrested or charged, prosecutors have questioned her. Under the bail condition the defense team presented, Carole Ghosn is prohibited from seeing her husband without court approval.

The next pretrial hearing will be held on June 24, and will cover Ghosn’s alleged underreporting of his income for years. Prosecutors claim Ghosn hid about ¥9.1 billion over an eight-year period.

Asked about whether Ghosn made any comments after the 30-minute hearing, Hironaka said, “Ghosn said something along the lines of ‘this is what a hearing looks like.’