Ex-Nissan chair Ghosn indicted for alleged breach of trust

Carlos Ghosn has denied all the allegations against him. (File/AFP)
Updated 11 January 2019
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Ex-Nissan chair Ghosn indicted for alleged breach of trust

  • Ghosn was detained on Nov. 19. Earlier, he was charged with falsifying financial reports in underreporting his income
  • Ghosn’s lawyer said he would request Ghosn be granted release on bail

TOKYO: Nissan’s ex-chairman Carlos Ghosn was charged Friday with breach of trust in the latest blow for the star executive, according to the Tokyo District Court.
Ghosn was detained on Nov. 19. Earlier, he was charged with falsifying financial reports in underreporting his income by about 5 billion yen ($44 million) over five years through 2015.
Ghosn; Greg Kelly, another Nissan executive; and Nissan as a legal entity were charged Friday with additional underreporting of income, from 2015 through fiscal 2017.
Ghosn’s lawyer said he would request Ghosn be granted release on bail. His detention period for the breach of trust allegations was due to expire Friday.
Kelly and Nissan were not charged with breach of trust. Those allegations center on Ghosn’s handling of investment losses and payments made to a Saudi businessman.
Ghosn, 64, says he’s innocent.
Suspects in Japan are routinely held for months until trials start.
Tokyo prosecutors say Ghosn, a Brazilian-born Frenchman of Lebanese ancestry, is a flight risk.
Earlier this week Ghosn told a Tokyo court he was innocent, in his first public appearance since his arrest, and appealed for his detention to end. But the court rejected the request.
“I have a genuine love and appreciation for Nissan,” Ghosn told the court. “In all of my efforts on behalf of the company, I have acted honorably, legally and with the knowledge and approval of the appropriate executives inside the company.”
He said the compensation was never decided on, the investment deal never resulted in any losses to Nissan, and the payments to the Saudi businessman was for legitimate services related to dealers and investments in the Gulf.
Ghosn, who appeared much thinner than before his arrest, came down with a fever the day after his court appearance, but has since recovered, his lawyer Motonari Ohtsuru said.
His wife Carole Ghosn issued a statement overnight out of Paris, expressing concern over his sickness.
“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,” she said.
Apart from prosecutors, only embassy officials and Ghosn’s lawyers are allowed to visit him. Such visits were canceled Thursday but resumed Friday.
Before his sudden downfall, Ghosn was a respected figure in the global auto industry, having rescued the Japanese automaker from near-bankruptcy, building its sales operations and profits and pioneering ecological vehicles.
Nissan says an internal investigation began middle of last year after whistleblowers came forward. Nissan Chief Executive Hiroto Saikawa has denounced Ghosn, accusing him of using company money and assets for personal gain.
Ethics officials at Nissan’s alliance partner Renault SA of France concluded this week that financial compensation to members of the French automaker’s executive committee in 2017 and 2018 was fraud-free. The review was initiated after Ghosn was arrested. Ghosn remains CEO of Renault.


Dubai property developer Damac on hunt for land in Saudi Arabia

Hussain Sajwani
Updated 23 min 10 sec ago
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Dubai property developer Damac on hunt for land in Saudi Arabia

  • Brexit a “concern” for UK property market says Sajwani
  • Developer mulls investing “up to £500 million” on London project

DUBAI: The Dubai-listed developer Damac says it is scouting for additional plots of land in Saudi Arabia, both in established cities and the Kingdom’s emerging giga-projects such as Neom.
Hussain Sajwani, chairman of Damac Properties, also said the company would look to invest up to £500 million ($660 million) on a second development in the UK, and that it is on track to deliver a record 7,000 or more units this year.
Amid a slowing property market in Dubai, Damac’s base, the developer is eying Saudi Arabia as a potential ground for expansion for its high-spec residential projects.
Damac has one development in Jeddah, and a twin-tower project in Riyadh — and Sajwani said it is looking for additional plots in the Kingdom.
“It’s a big market. It is changing, it is opening up, so we see a potential there … We are looking,” he said.
“In the Middle East, Saudi Arabia is the biggest economy … They have some very ambitious projects, like the Neom city and other large projects. We’re watching those and studying them very carefully.”
The $500 billion Neom project, which was announced in 2017, is set to be a huge economic zone with residential, commercial and tourist facilities on the Red Sea coast.
Sajwani said doing business in Saudi Arabia was “a bit more difficult or complicated” that the UAE, but said the country is opening up, citing moves to allow women to drive and reopen cinemas.
He was speaking to Arab News in Damac’s London sales office, opposite the Harrods department store in Knightsbridge. The office, kitted out in plush Versace furnishings, is selling units at Damac’s first development in the UK, the Damac Tower Nine Elms London.
The 50-storey development is in a new urban district south of the River Thames, which is also home to the US Embassy and the famous Battersea Power Station, which is being redeveloped as a residential and commercial property.
Work on Damac's tower is underway and is due to complete in late 2020 or early 2021, Sajwani said.
“We have sold more than 60 percent of the project,” he said. “It’s very mixed, we have (buyers) from the UK, from Asia, the Middle East.”
Damac’s first London project was launched in 2015, the year before the referendum on the UK exiting the EU — the result of which has had a knock-on effect on the London property market.
“Definitely Brexit has cause a lot of concern, people are not clear where the situation will go. Overall, the market has suffered because of Brexit,” Sajwani said.
“It’s going to be difficult for the coming two years at least … unless (the UK decides) to stay in the EU.”
Despite the ongoing uncertainty over Brexit, Sajwani said Damac was looking for additional plots of land in London, both in the “golden triangle” — the pricey areas of Mayfair, Belgravia and Knightsbridge, which are popular with Gulf investors — and new residential districts like Nine Elms.
Sajwani is considering an investment of “up to £500 million” on a new project in the UK capital.
“We are looking aggressively, and spending a lot of time … finding other opportunities,” he said. “Our appetite for London is there.”
Damac is also considering other international property markets for expansion, including parts of Europe and North American cities like Toronto, Boston, New York and Miami, Sajwani said.
The international drive by Damac comes, however, amid a tough property market in the developer’s home market of Dubai.
Damac in February reported that its 2018 profits fell by nearly 60 percent, with its fourth-quarter profit tumbling by 87 percent, according to Reuters calculations.
Sajwani — whose company attracted headlines for its partnership with the Trump Organization for two golf courses in Dubai — does not see any immediate recovery in the emirate’s property market, or Damac’s financial results.
“(With) the market being soft, prices being under pressure, we are part of the market — we are not going to do better than last year,” he said. “This year and next year are going to be difficult years. But it’s a great opportunity for the buyers.”
But the developer said Dubai was “very strong fundamentally,” citing factors like its advanced infrastructure, safety and security, and low taxes.
In 2018, Damac delivered over 4,100 units — a record for the company — and this year, despite the difficult market, it plans to hand over even more.
“We’re expecting north of 7,000,” Sajwani said. “This year will be another record.”