Former Nissan chief Ghosn set for court hearing in Japan over detention

Authorities are pursuing three separate lines of enquiry against Carlos Ghosn, involving alleged financial wrongdoing during his tenure as Nissan chief. (AFP)
Updated 04 January 2019
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Former Nissan chief Ghosn set for court hearing in Japan over detention

  • The once-revered auto tycoon was arrested on his private jet at a Tokyo airport on November 19
  • Authorities are pursuing three separate lines of enquiry against the French-Lebanese-Brazilian executive

TOKYO: Former Nissan Chairman Carlos Ghosn is likely to appear in a Japanese court to hear the reasons for his detention, possibly within days, after his lawyers deployed a little-used article of the Constitution.
A public hearing could take place within five days, according to public broadcaster NHK, after the executive’s attorneys lodged a request with the Tokyo District Court that it cannot legally refuse.
It is the latest in a series of unexpected twists in a case that has gripped Japan and the business world since the once-revered auto tycoon was arrested on his private jet at a Tokyo airport on November 19.
“Mr Ghosn today submitted a request for the disclosure of the reasons for his detention. No date has been set,” the court said.
NHK said Ghosn wants to attend the hearing himself if there is one.
Article 34 of Japan’s Constitution stipulates that “no person shall be arrested or detained without being at once informed of the charges against him or without the immediate privilege of counsel.”
“Nor shall he be detained without adequate cause; and upon demand of any person such cause must be immediately shown in open court in his presence and the presence of his counsel,” it says.
Ghosn was spending the beginning of 2019 in detention after the court last week extended his detention through to January 11 on allegations of aggravated breach of trust.
He was re-arrested over these allegations on December 21, dashing his hopes of being home for Christmas.
Since his shock arrest on November 19, the case has shone a light on the Japanese legal system, which has come in for some criticism internationally.
Authorities are pursuing three separate lines of enquiry against the 64-year-old Franco-Lebanese-Brazilian executive, involving alleged financial wrongdoing during his tenure as Nissan chief.
They suspect he conspired with his right-hand man, US executive Greg Kelly, to hide away around half of his income (some five billion yen or $44 million) over five fiscal years from 2010.
They also allege he under-reported his salary to the tune of four billion yen over the next three fiscal years — apparently to avoid criticism that his pay was too high.
They are also investigating a complex third claim that alleges Ghosn sought to shift a personal investment loss onto Nissan’s books.
Prosecutors have pressed formal charges over the first allegation but not yet over the other accusations.


Tokyo court rejects ex-Nissan chair Ghosn’s latest bail request

Updated 5 min 29 sec ago
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Tokyo court rejects ex-Nissan chair Ghosn’s latest bail request

  • Former Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn has been in custody since November 19
  • A Tokyo court rejected an earlier request for bail last week

TOKYO: A Tokyo court has rejected former Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn’s latest request for bail, more than two months after his arrest, prolonging a detention that has drawn international scrutiny of Japan’s justice system.
The decision by the Tokyo District Court came a day after Ghosn promised to wear an electronic monitoring ankle bracelet, give up his passport and pay for security guards approved by prosecutors to gain release from a Tokyo detention center.
The court announced its decision in a statement. His family said they will appeal.
Ghosn, 64, has been in custody since November 19. He had a bail hearing Monday. A Tokyo court rejected an earlier request for bail last week.
Ghosn, who led Nissan for two decades, has been charged with falsifying financial reports in underreporting his compensation from Nissan over eight years, and with breach of trust, centering on allegations Ghosn had Nissan temporarily shoulder his personal investment losses and pay a Saudi businessman.
Ghosn has said he is innocent, explaining that the alleged compensation was never decided, Nissan didn’t suffer losses and the payment was for legitimate services.
His wife Carole Ghosn appealed for his release through Human Rights Watch earlier this month, saying Ghosn’s treatment has been harsh and unfair.
Her views echo widespread criticism of Japan’s criminal justice system both inside and outside Japan. Suspects who insist they are innocent get held longer. Suspects are held in a cell and routinely grilled daily by investigators without a lawyer present, although lawyers are allowed to visit.
Ghosn’s lawyer Motonari Ohtsuru has acknowledged Ghosn’s release may not come until the trial, which may be six months away. A date for the trial has not been set.
Nissan officials say an internal investigation has found that Ghosn had schemes to hide his income and that he used company money and assets for personal gain.
A special committee Nissan set up after Ghosn’s arrest to strengthen governance held its first meeting Sunday. Seiichiro Nishioka, a former judge and co-chair, told reporters after the meeting that Ghosn had shown questionable ethics, and too much power within the company had been focused in one person. The committee’s findings are due by late March.
Ghosn’s pay was long a sticking point in Japan, where executives generally get paid far less than their American and other Western counterparts. Ghosn insisted he deserved his higher pay because of his achievements, saying he could have left for another job.
Nissan was on the verge of bankruptcy when alliance partner Renault SA of France sent in Ghosn to help revive it in 1999. Under Ghosn’s leadership, Nissan turned itself around and became one of the most successful auto groups in the world. Ghosn also helped Nissan pioneer ecological auto technology. The Nissan Leaf is the top-selling electric car.