Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 7 December 2019

Ghosn's lawyers head to United Nations and Japan Supreme Court

UPDATE: Former Nissan chief said to be suffering chronic kidney failure with lawyers set to file appeal to the UN's Working Group on Arbitrary Detention

Video of Mr Ghosn made before he was arrested last week. A new push for his release is being made. Bloomberg
Video of Mr Ghosn made before he was arrested last week. A new push for his release is being made. Bloomberg

Carlos Ghosn's lawyers will seek the intervention of the United Nations in his case and are contesting his re-arrest with Japan's Supreme Court while also calling on the French government to weigh in.

Mr Ghosn's lawyers will submit an updated dossier on Thursday to the UN's Working Group on Arbitrary Detention to show the executive's rights were violated under international law during his arrest in Japan and that his detention was arbitrary, Jessica Finelle, Paris-based partner at Zimeray Finelle law firm, told The National. Lawyers of the former Nissan boss on Wednesday appealed his ongoing detention to Japan's highest court.

"We want to make clear that our client is not trying to escape justice, he’s trying to demand justice in any way he can get it - at the moment he cannot get it," Ms Finelle said in a phone interview from Paris.

Mr Ghosn's Japanese lawyers, meanwhile, claimed his "illegal" arrest has interrupted his care for chronic kidney failure, which Mr Ghosn suffers from as a result of treatment for high cholesterol, according to documents seen by Reuters on Thursday.

The documents, prepared by Mr Ghosn's defence team after he was arrested for the fourth time by Tokyo prosecutors last week and the details of which have not been previously reported, allege his arrest was designed to halt the defence's preparation and force a confession.

Tokyo prosecutors declined to comment.

"This arrest is illegal," the defence said in one of the documents, dated April 5, the day after he was re-arrested.

Mr Ghosn has high cholesterol and, as a result of treatment, suffers from chronic kidney failure and rhabdomyolysis, the defence said. Rhabdomyolysis is a syndrome where muscle fibres release their contents into the blood stream.

Interrupting his treatment for the "convenience of prosecutors' investigation" was "inhuman", the defence said in the document.

The former chairman of the three-way alliance between Nissan, France's Renault and Mitsubishi Motors has denied any wrongdoing.

The 10-page dossier the legal team is taking to the UN calls on the body in Geneva to declare his detention arbitrary, to acknowledge serious violations of his right to a fair trial and demand his immediate release, according to his lawyer.

Ms Finelle said that while the UN working group's decision is non-binding, the lawyers hoped an affirmative assessment from the UN may help convince the judge of violations in the detention process.

"We are confident about the outcome of the UN group because the procedure was full of violations," she said. "We are optimistic."

As the lawyers were preparing to meet the UN, Mr Ghosn's wife Carole was questioned by prosecutors at Tokyo District Court, Kyodo News reported, after she returned to Japan on Wednesday.

"[She] responded in a sincere manner. We believe this will lead to Mr Ghosn's acquittal," said Mr Ghosn's lawyer Junichiro Hironaka, according to Kyodo.

She returned late Wednesday to Japan to meet authorities - "proof that she never intended to run away from anybody", according to the couple's lawyer Francois Zimeray.

Japanese authorities are investigating claims that Mr Ghosn siphoned off around $5 million of Nissan funds for his personal use, according to AFP.

Prosecutors believe this money was taken from around $15m transferred from Nissan to an overseas dealership between 2015 and 2018.

According to a source close to the matter, some of the $5m was funnelled to a British Virgin Islands-listed company - which has Mrs Ghosn registered as president - to purchase a luxury yacht.

The boat, 37 metres long and weighing nearly 300 tonnes, is worth more than €12 million (Dh49.7m), according to this source.

The UN document is an update of a 25-page dossier filed in March before Mr Ghosn, a Brazilian, French and Lebanese citizen was released on bail, mainly detailing the events since his re-arrest last Thursday.

The UN appeal could take at least six months after the dossier is filed, Ms Finelle said. During that period, the UN assesses the lawyers' claims, requests a response from the Japanese authorities who have two months to reply, to which the defence team can then respond. A trial for Mr Ghosn is unlikely until the end of the year, according to his lawyers.

Ms Finelle said they are calling on the French authorities to ask their Japanese counterparts to ensure Mr Ghosn gets a fair trial, a presumption of innocence until proven guilty and that his rights are upheld.

"It's not too late to do something," she said. "We're hoping that his situation has now become so shocking in terms of the basic rights violated that they will feel they have to get involved a bit to make sure he's given the opportunity to exercise his rights."

Mr Ghosn’s case has sparked harsh international criticism of Japan’s justice system, in which 99 per cent of people charged with crimes are convicted.

"We are worried that his conviction would be automatic," Ms Finelle said. "The case is so public and the prosecution is worried about its image, we think they will put extra effort in weakening Mr Ghosn and put him down, which they won't manage because he's very strong and determined."

Mr Ghosn will remain in jail until at least April 14.

"We don't know what the prosecutor will take out of his hat again, it's hard to tell," she said. "We're trying to raise awareness of the outrageous way he's being treated and we hope it's going to work."

Mr Ghosn's case shed light on Japan's "hostage justice" system, in which suspects can be held for months after arrest.

During detention, Mr Ghosn has been denied access to a lawyer, forbidden from seeing his family and unable to shower.

"They totally dehumanised him," Ms Finelle said. "They treated him like a guilty person."

Human Rights Watch called for an end to Japan's "hostage justice" practices that fail to meet international law standards, in a petition on April 10 signed by hundreds of professionals.

"The 'hostage justice' system uses detention beyond its original purpose of securing suspects’ appearance in court and violates the human rights guaranteed by the Constitution of Japan, including physical freedom, the right to remain silent, and the right to a fair trial," it said. "We once again call for the elimination of Japan’s 'hostage justice' and raise our voice with those who share the universal value of human rights."

Updated: April 12, 2019 10:24 AM