Tokyo prosecutors arrested former Nissan Motor Co. Chairman Carlos Ghosn on Thursday, less than a month after he was released on bail after serving more than 100 days in custody.
The ex-auto tycoon was served a fourth arrest warrant by prosecutors over new allegations of aggravated breach of trust.
Before 6 a.m. Thursday morning local time, prosecutors entered the residence of Ghosn and took the 65-year old to their offices by car for questioning.
He has since been taken back to the Tokyo Detention House from where he was released on bail on March 6. Sources close to the matter said Ghosn’s arrest was related to allegations he used part of Nissan’s funds which were transferred to a Nissan dealership in Oman, operated for seven years until last year by an acquaintance of his.
The fresh allegations suggest that Ghosn may have made more than 34 million U.S. dollars in payments from a CEO reserve fund that the once-revered tycoon had discretion over, under the pretense of sales incentives from Nissan.Sources said that the money was then transferred from a private bank account opened in Lebanon by the Omani dealer, funneled through an investment firm run by the Omani and sent to a company account belonging to a family member of Ghosn.
The funds are suspected by prosecutors thereafter of being used, at least in part, to purchase a 1.6-billion-yen (14.35-million-U.S. dollar) luxury yacht for use by Ghosn’s family and others, the sources said.
Prosecutors said that Ghosn, who since first being indicted has maintained his innocence, had caused Nissan a loss of around 563 million yen (5 million U.S. dollars).
In a written statement released after being served a fourth arrest warrant, Ghosn described his arrest as being “outrageous” and “arbitrary.”
“My arrest this morning is outrageous and arbitrary. It is part of another attempt by some individuals at Nissan to silence me by misleading the prosecutors. Why arrest me except to try to break me? I will not be broken. I am innocent of the groundless charges and accusations against me,” Ghosn’s statement read.
“After being wrongly imprisoned for 108 days, my biggest hope and wish today is for a fair trial. I was scheduled to present my story in a press conference next week; by arresting me again, the prosecutors have denied me that opportunity, for now, but I am determined that the truth will come out. I am confident that if tried fairly, I will be vindicated,” Ghosn wrote.
In terms of the ousted Nissan chief’s hopes for a fair trial, Ghosn’s lawyer, Junichiro Hironaka, known for winning acquittals in high-profile cases, has voiced his skepticism.
He said given the fact that Nissan executives have reached a plea-bargaining deal with prosecutors, the automaker, also facing charges of financial improprieties connected to making false financial disclosures, now finds itself in a position of being less like a defendant and more like prosecutor.
Hironaka intimated that his client may not receive a fair trial if Nissan’s position is that of prosecutor in the same court and in front of the same judge as its former chief.
Ghosn’s legal team has called for the trails to be conducted separately, with Hironaka blasting the judicial system as being a “hostage justice system” as his client has been judged not to be a flight risk and has adhered to strict bail conditions, including being under camera surveillance and only having limited access to the use of phones and computers.
“If prosecutors thought they could gather enough evidence for another prosecution, they should have just slapped additional charges. I don’t understand why they detained him,” Hironaka said Thursday. “If anything, they chose to torment him through hostage justice and are trying to gain an upper hand,” he said, adding that his client’s latest detention was “excessive.”
Meanwhile, Ghosn’s defense team has maintained that in terms of Thursday’s arrest, the money transferred to Oman was made at the request of his subordinates and was a permissible payment made to the dealer for his many years of service.
His team also said that the purchase of the multi-million dollar yacht has noting to do with Nissan and described their client’s rearrest this morning as being “extremely inappropriate.”
Ghosn, who was first arrested on Nov. 19, 2018, on charges of under-reporting his remuneration for years in Nissan’s securities reports presented to Japanese regulators, is also facing a separate charge of aggravated breach of trust, for allegedly transferring private investment losses to Nissan.
Ghosn, who holds Brazilian, French and Lebanese citizenship, was released on bail on March 6 after spending 108 days in the Tokyo Detention House.
He has denied the charges and was, prior to his arrest, gearing up to give his first, highly anticipated press conference. “I’m getting ready to tell the truth about what’s happening. Press conference on Thursday, April 11,” Ghosn, widely regarded as being the brain and brawn behind Nissan’s rapid turnaround from near-bankruptcy since 1999, tweeted on Wednesday.
While Ghosn was removed from his post at Nissan following his arrest, he still holds his seat on the automaker’s board as a director.
Nissan, the automaker has said, is imminently planning to oust Ghosn as a board member at an extraordinary shareholders’ meeting slated to be held on April 8. After his arrest, Ghosn was also dismissed as the chairman of Mitsubishi Motors Corp. He was also replaced as chairman of Renault SA in the three-way alliance he created after he tendered his resignation while in detention in Tokyo.