Tue, Dec 11, 2018 - Page 10 News List

Ex-Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn charged

WORKAROUND:Carlos Ghosn and his aide allegedly put a system in place to defer part of Ghosn’s salary until his retirement to avoid criticism over his generous pay

AFP, TOKYO

Japanese prosecutors have formally charged former Nissan Motor Co chairman Carlos Ghosn with financial misconduct for under-reporting his salary and also served a fresh warrant on separate allegations, local media reported yesterday, meaning the tycoon will likely spend Christmas in a cell.

Ghosn, 64, has been in detention since his Nov. 19 arrest on suspicion of under-declaring his income by about ¥5 billion (US$44 million) between 2010 and 2015.

Authorities later yesterday rearrested him over separate allegations that he also under-reported his income by a further ¥4 billion over the past three years.

Under Japanese law, suspects can be rearrested several times for different allegations, allowing prosecutors to question them for prolonged periods — a system that has drawn criticism internationally.

Yesterday was the final day prosecutors could hold Ghosn and close aide Greg Kelly before either charging or rearresting them, and a further arrest could allow them another 22 days of questioning.

In addition to charges against Ghosn, prosecutors also indicted Kelly and Nissan itself, local media reported, as the company submitted the official documents that under-reported the income.

Ghosn denies the charges and is in a “combative” frame of mind, said sources at Renault SA, the company he still formally leads — even if the French car giant has appointed an interim chairman.

The Japanese firms in the three-way alliance with Renault — Nissan and Mitsubishi Motors Co — have both sacked the Franco-Lebanese-Brazilian as chairman.

Ghosn has admitted signing documents to defer part of his salary until after retirement, but said this amount did not need to be declared, as it has not yet been definitively fixed, Kyodo news agency reported.

A source close to the investigation has said Ghosn and Kelly allegedly put the system in place after a new law came in obliging the highest-paid members of the firm to declare their salary.

Ghosn is suspected of deferring part of his pay to avoid criticism from staff and shareholders that his salary was too generous.

Nissan is appealing to a court in Rio de Janeiro to block access by Ghosn’s representatives to a luxury apartment on Copacabana Beach.

It is unclear if Ghosn can be bailed before a potential trial.

In Japan, prosecutors and defendants begin a trial at a district court and can appeal to a high court and the Japanese Supreme Court. It might take several years before reaching a final judgement.

If found guilty, Ghosn could face a 10-year prison sentence.

Nissan has begun the process of choosing Ghosn’s successor, with the final decision expected on Monday next week.

His arrest has sparked incredulity at Renault, which owns 43 percent of Nissan and said it has not seen a detailed account of the charges against Ghosn.

It has also fueled anger in Lebanon, with digital billboards around Beirut proclaiming “We are all Carlos Ghosn” under a picture of the magnate.

“A Lebanese phoenix will not be scorched by a Japanese sun,” Lebanese Minister of the Interior Nohad Machnouk has said.

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