Business / Corporate

Ghosn lawyer asks why charges were dropped against Nissan CEO Hiroto Saikawa

Kyodo

Former Nissan Motor Co. Chairman Carlos Ghosn’s defense team on Monday urged prosecutors to explain in detail why they decided not to charge the automaker’s CEO for his involvement in their client’s alleged financial misconduct, according to people close to the matter.

The request was made during a pretrial proceeding held to discuss the former auto tycoon’s alleged crimes. The procedure was the first in relation to the charge of underreporting remuneration in Nissan securities reports leveled at the 65-year-old Ghosn.

During the proceeding — held to narrow down points of dispute ahead of a trial and attended by a judge, prosecutors and lawyers — Ghosn’s defense requested an explanation over the April 26 decision not to indict Nissan CEO Hiroto Saikawa for his part in approving securities reports cited in Ghosn’s indictment, the sources said.

Ghosn, wearing a dark, striped suit with a tie, was also joined at the Tokyo District Court by former close aide Greg Kelly, who is accused of conspiring to underreport his former boss’ remuneration.

A complaint has been filed alleging Saikawa violated the financial instruments law by being aware that Ghosn’s remuneration was underreported when he was Nissan chief.

Saikawa, who succeeded Ghosn as president and chief executive officer in April 2017, told investigators that he signed a company document regarding the post-retirement payment to Ghosn “without thinking deeply” because he considered the matter already agreed between Ghosn and Kelly, according to different sources familiar with the matter.

During Monday’s process, Ghosn’s lawyer also requested prosecutors promptly present evidence.

As for the other charge leveled against Ghosn over aggravated breach of trust involving the transfer of private investment losses to the automaker, a pretrial procedure was already conducted on May 23. The procedure for that charge was also discussed during Monday’s process.

The next round of discussions will be held July 23, the sources said.

Since his initial arrest last November, Ghosn was indicted over a violation of the financial instruments law for allegedly underreporting his remuneration in the eight years through March 2018 as around ¥7.8 billion ($72 million) when his pay actually totaled around ¥17 billion.

He is also accused of having a Nissan subsidiary in the United Arab Emirates pay $10 million to a distributor in Oman between July 2017 and last July, and having $5 million of that money transferred to a savings account at a Lebanese investment firm that Ghosn effectively owns.

Ghosn, credited with saving Nissan when it was teetering on the brink of bankruptcy in the late 1990s, has been stripped of his chairmanship posts at Nissan and its alliance partners Renault SA and Mitsubishi Motors Corp.

He has denied all allegations, saying in a video message recorded prior to his fourth arrest in April that he is the victim of a “conspiracy” by Nissan executives who felt that a possible convergence or merger with Renault would threaten Nissan’s autonomy.

Ghosn has been free on bail since April 26 following his fourth indictment in April 22.