November 30, 2018 10:13 CET
TOKYO — Tokyo authorities on Friday extended for another 10 days the detention of ousted Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn, Japanese media said.
Ghosn was arrested Nov. 19 after landing at a Tokyo airport. Nissan, the automaker he helped resurrect, accuses him of financial crimes, including understating income and using company money for personal use. Japanese authorities will now have to file charges by Dec. 10 or let him go.
Ghosn denies wrongdoing and has hired Motonari Otsuru, the former director of the same Tokyo prosecutors’ office department that is now investigating him, as his chief defense lawyer.
Ghosn’s arrest has raised concerns about the future of the auto alliance he stitched together with Nissan, Renault and Mitsubishi Motors. His arrest has divided the automakers he once headed and raised questions about how transparent Japan has been in disclosing details of Ghosn’s alleged misdeeds.
French President Emmanuel Macron is seeking a meeting with Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe over Ghosn’s arrest, the Mainichi reported Friday, citing unidentified people familiar with the developments. Macron plans to ask for investigations to be made transparent and the reasons that led to the arrest of the French-Brazilian.
Japan’s criminal-justice system lacks many of the protections defendants receive in the U.S. and Europe. Prosecutors may hold Ghosn for up to about three weeks without charge, and in that time his lawyer will probably not be present during what are likely to be lengthy and repeated interrogations.
Prosecutors are almost certain to proceed to an indictment after making such a high-profile arrest, said Nobuo Gohara, a lawyer and former prosecutor who specializes in financial law. If convicted, Ghosn could face up to 10 years in prison, prosecutors have said.
Nissan’s board sacked Ghosn as chairman within days of his arrest while its partner and largest shareholder Renault decided not to remove him as its CEO and instead appointed chief operating officer Thierry Bollore as interim leader. Renault said at the time that it didn’t have enough information to remove the embattled executive.
On Thursday, Renault, Nissan and Mitsubishi Motors said their CEOs will jointly lead their automaking alliance for now, splitting a role maintained by Ghosn for two decades. The three chiefs are “completely aligned on direction,” Nissan CEO Hiroto Saikawa told reporters.
Ghosn, 64, is being held at Tokyo’s detention center, which is known for an austere regime. He is likely being held in a small 4.8-sq-m (52-sq-ft) cell, media reports have said. His daily rhythm is eight hours of sleep while he is in his detention cell, three meals and 30 minutes of prescribed exercise, a far cry from his previous luxury lifestyle. Ghosn asked his lawyers to bring a turtle-neck sweater to keep himself warm, a person familiar with the situation said, asking not to be identified discussing private matters.
Japanese prosecutors allege Ghosn and fellow board member Greg Kelly, who is also being held for questioning, conspired to under-report by about half the 10 billion-yen ($88 million) Ghosn earned at Nissan over five years from fiscal 2010 in filings to the Tokyo Stock Exchange. Nissan bought and renovated homes for Ghosn in Brazil and Lebanon worth around $18 million and paid several hundred thousand dollars for Ghosn’s family vacations, media reports said.
Ghosn’s deferred income ballooned over the past eight years as he sought to downplay his compensation in front of shareholders, a practice that was a focus of the investigation that led to his arrest, people familiar with the probe have said. The compensation deferred until his retirement has emerged as a key point of contention, with Ghosn telling colleagues that he acted appropriately by not including it in regulatory filings, the Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday