Tokyo court denies ex-Nissan chief Ghosn’s bail request

A police vehicle patrols in front of the Tokyo Detention House where former Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn is being held. (AFP)
Updated 15 January 2019
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Tokyo court denies ex-Nissan chief Ghosn’s bail request

  • Carlos Ghosn faces three charges of financial misconduct and has been detained since November
  • The Tokyo court decision was widely expected

TOKYO: A Tokyo court on Tuesday rejected a request by former Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn for bail following fresh charges, dashing his hopes for an early release from his Japanese jail cell.

The decision means the 64-year-old auto tycoon is likely to stay in custody until his trial, which even his own defense lawyer has admitted could take six months to begin.

The Tokyo District Court said in a statement that “a request filed by lawyers for his bail release was rejected today.”

On Friday, prosecutors pressed formal charges against Ghosn over two more allegations of financial misconduct — all of which the Franco-Brazilian-Lebanese businessman denies.

In a dramatic courtroom appearance on Tuesday, Ghosn denounced the allegations against him, saying he had been “wrongly accused and unfairly detained.”

He has been indicted on two counts of allegedly under-declaring his income by more than nine billion yen ($83 million) in total over eight fiscal years in documents to shareholders.

Ghosn also stands charged with “aggravated breach of trust” over a complex alleged scheme in which he is said to have tried to transfer foreign exchange losses to Nissan’s books.

His ongoing detention has prompted some international criticism of Japan’s legal system, which permits prosecutors to hold suspects while they investigate an allegation, and also allows lengthy pre-trial detention once charges have been filed.

Carole Ghosn, his wife, has alleged her husband is being held in “harsh” conditions and subjected to round-the-clock interrogations intended to extract a confession.

In a letter to Human Rights Watch, she sought to “press the government to reform its draconian system of pretrial detention and interrogation.”

But deputy chief prosecutor Shin Kukimoto has defended Japan’s investigative procedures, saying he had anticipated overseas criticism.

“We expected various reactions since it is a criminal investigation into a globally famous person,” he said.

“We are acting appropriately in accordance with the existing laws.”

However, some local media have expressed understanding of the criticism from overseas. The Asahi Shimbun daily said in an editorial that the country “needs a debate toward improvement” of its controversial legal system.

Ghosn’s lawyer has acknowledged his client is unlikely to be freed before a trial, and that the case could take six months to come to court given its complexity and the need to translate documents into Japanese and English.

The former Nissan chief has so far been denied visits from anyone except his lawyers and diplomats from the three countries where he holds citizenship — Brazil, France and Lebanon.

But a court ruling last week means Ghosn’s family can now visit him..

Ghosn has appeared in public just once since his shock November 19 arrest, during last week’s court hearing which was called after his lawyers requested judges explain the tycoon’s ongoing detention.

One of the most recognizable foreign executives in Japan, Ghosn was led into Tokyo District Court in handcuffs and with a rope around his waist, and was noticeably thinner.

His arrest has exposed rifts in the alliance he forged and led between Nissan, Mitsubishi Motors and France’s Renault.

While the two Japanese firms quickly ousted him from leadership roles, Renault has kept him on and its board said Thursday that an ongoing audit has found no sign of fraud in the last two years.

On Friday, Renault decried a “campaign of destabilization” embroiling its alliance with Nissan, as new allegations surfaced over pay arrangements overseen by Ghosn.

Jose Munoz, a top executive widely seen as a close ally to Ghosn, has resigned as the company broadens an internal probe over Ghosn’s case.

Following the latest charges, Nissan announced it had filed its own criminal complaint against its former chief, saying it can’t “tolerate such misconduct and calls for strict penalties.”

Some have suggested Ghosn’s arrest is a form of boardroom “coup” by Nissan against Renault — a junior partner in the alliance but the best performing.

But CEO Hiroto Saikawa dismissed this as “absurd” in an interview with French business daily Les Echos.

“Look at the evidence. It’s serious,” Saikawa was quoted as saying.


Germany sees ‘most difficult part’ in EU-US trade talks ahead

Updated 11 min 13 sec ago
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Germany sees ‘most difficult part’ in EU-US trade talks ahead

  • ‘For some weeks and months now, we’re observing with concern that the US is tightening its trade policies, that tensions are increasing’
  • ‘The impact can already be seen in the world economy, global growth has slowed’

BERLIN: The most difficult part in trade negotiations between Europe and the United States is starting now and talks should focus on reducing tariffs on industrial goods to increase the chances of a deal, German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier said on Tuesday.
A confidential US Commerce Department report sent to President Donald Trump over the weekend is widely expected to clear the way for him to threaten tariffs of up to 25 percent on imported autos and auto parts by designating the imports a national security threat.
“For some weeks and months now, we’re observing with concern that the US is tightening its trade policies, that tensions are increasing,” Altmaier told Deutschlandfunk radio.
“The impact can already be seen in the world economy, global growth has slowed,” Altmaier said.
Asked about the risk of higher US car tariffs, Altmaier said he did not buy the argument that imported cars would threaten the national security of the United States.
Altmaier, a confidant of Chancellor Angela Merkel, said that reducing tariffs on cars and other manufactured goods should be the main focus of the ongoing trade talks.
“We are not yet where we want to be. We might have made one-third of the way and the most difficult part will be now,” Altmaier said.
Altmaier added that he was in favor of reducing import tariffs for cars to the same level in the US and Europe, “ideally to zero percent.”
The trade talks will also be high on the agenda during a meeting of Altmaier with his French counterpart Bruno Le Maire in Berlin later on Tuesday.
Both ministers are expected to narrow differences on how far the negotiation mandate of the European Commission in the talks with the US should go and which areas should be excluded.
France is reluctant to open up its agriculture sector to US imports and Altmaier said he was fine with excluding the issue in the trade talks.
“Agriculture is a very sensitive topic, so we don’t want to talk about this in the current situation,” Altmaier said.
Altmaier and Le Maire are expected to hold a news conference after the talks.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker told a German newspaper that Trump had promised him he would not impose additional import tariffs on European cars for the time being.
If Trump imposed tariffs on European cars, however, the EU would react immediately and not feel obliged to stick to its promise to buy more soybeans and liquefied gas from the United States, Juncker added.