Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 20 May 2019

Ghosn's latest indictment puts 'victim' claim in the spotlight

Former Nissan chief's claim that executives conspired against him may be in doubt

Former Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn's defence stance could be in doubt.Reuters
Former Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn's defence stance could be in doubt.Reuters

The new indictment accusing Carlos Ghosn of redirecting $5 million from Nissan to his personal accounts may undermine his argument that he is a victim of corporate intrigue.

Mr Ghosn allegedly used foreign corporate entities in 2017 and 2018 to funnel the money into accounts that he controlled, Japanese prosecutors said on Monday.

He declared his innocence hours later.

The allegations are the first to suggest that the former chairman – who also once led the alliance between Nissan, Renault and Mitsubishi Motors – transferred money from Nissan for his own gain, Bloomberg reported.

After Mr Ghosn’s first arrest in November, Nissan and Renault uncovered payments made through companies in Lebanon and Oman, which were allegedly used for Mr Ghosn’s personal benefit, including a yacht and his son’s start-up.

One company, Good Faith Investments in Beirut, made money transfers to a firm connected to Anthony Ghosn, sources said.

“It sounds like, in this case, he in fact rerouted money from Nissan counterparties into accounts that he controls and he benefited from,” Stephen Givens, a professor of law at Sophia University in Tokyo, said after the indictment.

“So this is real embezzlement, which is qualitatively very different from the things he’s been charged with up until now.”

Mr Ghosn denied the allegations on Monday night and said prosecutors were “aided and abetted by certain Nissan conspirators".

His previous proclamations of innocence, including one in a video aired after his latest arrest, said Nissan executives signed off on his actions or were conspiring against him because they feared losing their jobs if the company moved closer to Renault.

In their indictment on Monday, prosecutors undermined those claims by accusing Mr Ghosn, 65, of acting out of greed to benefit his family.

Lawyers for Mr Ghosn, who has been detained since April 4 on allegations of misusing corporate funds, immediately applied for his release on bail.

He has maintained his innocence on all charges filed against him since November, when his shock arrest jolted the motor industry and sparked sweeping changes at the three-company alliance.

Shin Kukimoto, deputy chief prosecutor of the Tokyo district, declined to comment on Mr Ghosn’s request for release.

If these latest allegations are true, “obviously it would be more problematic than some possibly unintentional compliance violation, which is what they started with", said Colin Jones, a law professor at Doshisha University in Kyoto.

Prosecutors asked the Tokyo District Court to allow only lawyers to see Mr Ghosn, claiming he had his wife, Carole, contact the parties involved in his case and ask them to tell the same story as his, The Japan Times reported on Tuesday.

Ms Ghosn may have made the contacts when she travelled to France on April 5, the day after her husband was rearrested in Tokyo, and returned to Japan in time for pretrial questioning by prosecutors on April 11, a source told the paper.

The court has rejected the prosecutors’ request to limit Mr Ghosn’s visitors, but their latest allegations could influence the court’s decision on whether to grant bail.

This March, 2019, photo shows former Nissan Chairman Carlos Ghosn, right, and his wife Carole in Tokyo. Japanese prosecutors said Monday, April 22, 2019, they have indicted Nissan’s former chairman Ghosn with additional charges of breach of trust, with his alleged misconduct expanding outside Japan. (Kyodo News via AP)
Carlos Ghosn and his wife Carole in Tokyo. AP

The court approved bail for Mr Ghosn on March 5 after more than 100 days in detention, and he lived with Carole in a Tokyo apartment until he was arrested for the fourth time on April 4.

His bail conditions included a ban from contacting Nissan executives and other people who could be linked to the allegations.

But the terms did not ban Ms Ghosn from contacting people who could be involved in his case.

Updated: April 24, 2019 02:38 AM

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