Ex-Nissan chief Ghosn charged, may face new allegations

Former Nissan chairman Ghosn, 64, has been in detention since his Nov. 19 arrest on suspicion of under-declaring his income by some five billion yen ($44 million) between 2010 and 2015. (File/AFP)
Updated 10 December 2018
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Ex-Nissan chief Ghosn charged, may face new allegations

  • Authorities are also widely expected to re-arrest him later Monday over separate allegations that he also under-reported his income by a further four billion over the past three years
  • Under Japanese law, suspects can be re-arrested several times for different allegations, allowing prosecutors to question them for prolonged periods

TOKYO: Japanese prosecutors have formally charged Carlos Ghosn with financial misconduct for under-reporting his salary, local media reported on Monday, three weeks after the auto tycoon’s arrest stunned the business world.
Former Nissan chairman Ghosn, 64, has been in detention since his November 19 arrest on suspicion of under-declaring his income by some five billion yen ($44 million) between 2010 and 2015.
Authorities are also widely expected to re-arrest him later Monday over separate allegations that he also under-reported his income by a further four billion over the past three years.
Under Japanese law, suspects can be re-arrested several times for different allegations, allowing prosecutors to question them for prolonged periods — a system that has drawn criticism internationally.
Monday was the final day prosecutors can hold Ghosn and close aide Greg Kelly before either charging or re-arresting them, and a further arrest would allow them another 22 days of questioning.
In addition to charges against Ghosn, prosecutors also indicted Kelly and Nissan itself, according to local media, as the company submitted the official documents that under-reported the income.
Ghosn denies the charges and is in a “combative” frame of mind, according to sources at Renault, the company he still formally leads — even if the French car giant has appointed an interim chairman.
The Japanese firms in the three-way alliance with Renault — Nissan and Mitsubishi Motors — have both sacked the Franco-Lebanese-Brazilian as chairman.
The millionaire auto sector star, who attracted some criticism for a perceived lavish lifestyle, is now alone in a spartan cell in a Tokyo detention center, in a tiny room measuring just three tatami mats — around five square meters.
He has reportedly told embassy visitors he is being well treated but has complained of the cold, with Monday’s temperature in the Japanese capital hovering around five degrees Celsius.
He spends his time reading books and news reports and is said to be unhappy about the rice-based food.
According to local news agency Kyodo, he has admitted signing documents to defer part of his salary until after retirement but said this amount did not need to be declared as it has not yet been definitively fixed.
A source close to the investigation has said Ghosn and Kelly allegedly put the system in place after a new law came in obliging the highest-paid members of the firm to declare their salary.
Ghosn is suspected of deferring part of his pay to avoid criticism from staff and shareholders that his salary was too generous.
Nissan is appealing to a court in Rio de Janeiro to block access by Ghosn’s representatives to a luxury apartment on Copacabana Beach
“We are closely watching if he is actually indicted and then found guilty,” said Satoru Takada, an analyst at TIW, a Tokyo-based research and consulting firm.
“If he is exempted from prosecution or found innocent, it is going to create huge confusion in Nissan’s management,” Takada told AFP.
It is unclear if Ghosn can be bailed before a potential trial.
In Japan, prosecutors and defendants begin a trial at a district court and can appeal to a high court and the Supreme Court. It may take several years before reaching a final judgment.
If found guilty, Ghosn could face a 10-year prison sentence.
The affair represents a staggering turnaround for a figure celebrated for saving Nissan from the brink of bankruptcy and rebuilding it as a money-making subsidiary of Renault.
Nissan has begun a process of choosing Ghosn’s successor, with the final decision expected on December 17.
His arrest has sparked incredulity at Renault, which owns 43 percent of Nissan and says it has not seen a detailed account of the charges against Ghosn.
It has also fueled anger in Lebanon, with digital billboards around Beirut proclaiming “We are all Carlos Ghosn” under a picture of the magnate.
“A Lebanese phoenix will not be scorched by a Japanese sun,” Interior Minister Nohad Machnouk has declared.


Davos organizer WEF warns of growing risk of cyberattacks in Gulf

Updated 16 January 2019
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Davos organizer WEF warns of growing risk of cyberattacks in Gulf

  • Critical infrastructure such as power centers and water plants at particular risk, says expert
  • Report finds that unemployment is a major concern in Bahrain, Egypt, Morocco, Oman and Tunisia

LONDON: The World Economic Forum (WEF) has warned of the growing possibility of cyberattacks in the Gulf — with Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar particularly vulnerable.

Cyberattacks were ranked as the second most important risk — after an “energy shock” — in the three Gulf states, according to the WEF’s flagship Global Risks Report 2019.

The report was released ahead of the WEF’s annual forum in Davos, Switzerland, which starts on Tuesday.

In an interview with Arab News, John Drzik, president of global risk and digital at professional services firm Marsh & McLennan said: “The risk of cyberattacks on critical infrastructure such as power centers and water plants is moving up the agenda in the Middle East, and in the Gulf in particular.”

Drzik was speaking on the sidelines of a London summit where WEF unveiled the report, which was compiled in partnership with Marsh and Zurich Insurance.

“Cyberattacks are a growing concern as the regional economy becomes more sophisticated,” he said.

“Critical infrastructure means centers where disablement could affect an entire society — for instance an attack on an electric grid.”

Countries needed to “upgrade to reflect the change in the cyber risk environment,” he added.

The WEF report incorporated the results of a survey taken from about 1,000 experts and decision makers.

The top three risks for the Middle East and Africa as a whole were found to be an energy price shock, unemployment or underemployment, and terrorist attacks.

Worries about an oil price shock were said to be particularly pronounced in countries where government spending was rising, said WEF. This group includes Saudi Arabia, which the IMF estimated in May 2018 had seen its fiscal breakeven price for oil — that is, the price required to balance the national budget — rise to $88 a barrel, 26 percent above the IMF’s October 2017 estimate, and also higher than the country’s medium-term oil-price target of $70–$80.

But that disclosure needed to be balanced with the fact that risk of “fiscal crises” dropped sharply in the WEF survey rankings, from first position last year to fifth in 2018.

The report said: “Oil prices increased substantially between our 2017 and 2018 surveys, from around $50 to $75. This represents a significant fillip for the fiscal position of the region’s oil producers, with the IMF estimating that each $10 increase in oil prices should feed through to an improvement on the fiscal balance of 3 percentage points of GDP.”

At national level, this risk of “unemployment and underemployment” ranked highly in Bahrain, Egypt, Morocco, Oman and Tunisia.
“Unemployment is a pressing issue in the region, particularly for the rapidly expanding young population: Youth unemployment averages around 25 percent and is close to 50 percent in Oman,” said the report.

Other countries attaching high prominence to domestic and regional fractures in the survey were Tunisia, with “profound
social instability” ranked first, and Algeria, where respondents ranked “failure of regional and global governance” first.

Looking at the global picture, WEF warned that weakened international co-operation was damaging the collective will to confront key issues such as climate change and environmental degradation.