Ghosn hit with more charges, release unlikely

TOKYO (AFP) – Tokyo prosecutors yesterday filed two new charges of financial misconduct against former Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn, meaning the auto tycoon is unlikely to be leaving his jail cell soon.

Lawyers for the former jet-setting executive filed a bail application hours later, but have acknowledged that he will probably be detained until a trial.

Ghosn denies any wrongdoing and argued in a dramatic first court appearance last Tuesday that he has been “wrongly accused and unfairly detained”.

He was already facing a first charge for allegedly under-reporting his compensation over five years to the tune of five billion yen (USD46 million) in official documents to shareholders.

The charges filed yesterday allege that the under-reporting continued for another three years.

Pedestrians pass by a television screen showing a news programme featuring former Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn in Tokyo on January 8. – AFP

And they include a charge of “aggravated breach of trust” over a complex alleged scheme in which Ghosn is said to have tried to transfer losses on foreign exchange contracts to Nissan’s books.

As part of the scheme, he is accused of also using company funds to repay a Saudi acquaintance who put up collateral for the contracts.

Prosecutors also filed charges yesterday against Nissan and Ghosn aide Greg Kelly over the additional three years of under-reporting pay.

“We took these steps today because we believed that they are cases worthy of indictment and going to trial,” said Deputy Chief Prosecutor Shin Kukimoto.

A prosecutor’s office spokeswoman said charges against Ghosn carry a maximum prison sentence of 15 years.

The breach of trust charge is regarded as particularly serious, and Ghosn’s lawyer Motonari Otsuru admitted last Tuesday it would be “very difficult” to secure bail for his client.

“In general in such cases in Japan, it is indeed the case that bail is not approved before the first trial does take place,” he said, adding that it could be six months before the case comes before a judge.

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

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