Former Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn re-arrested in Japan

Media says Ghosn was re-arrested on suspicion of aggravated breach of trust and could face further period of detention

Prosecutors in Japan have re-arrested Carlos Ghosn, possibly ending any hopes the former Nissan chairman had of an early release from detention over financial misconduct allegations. .

Ghosn, who has been detained for more than a month, was re-arrested on Friday morning on suspicion of aggravated breach of trust and could face another 10 days in detention.

Speculation had been building that he could be released on bail after a court unexpectedly rejected a prosecution request to extend his detention for further questioning.

But in the latest twist to a saga that has gripped Japan, Ghosn was instead re-arrested, this time on suspicion of using Nissan funds to cover losses of 1.85bn yen ($16.6m) he incurred from derivatives trading in 2008.

Prosecutors, whose prolonged detention of Ghosn has attracted international criticism, said: “The accused was responsible for managing Nissan’s overall operations and for dutifully fulfilling his role as chief executive not to cause damage to Nissan and its subsidiaries ... but he took action that betrayed his role and caused financial damage to Nissan.”

Ghosn was first arrested on 19 November for allegedly underreporting his pay by about 5bn yen between 2011 and 2015. In addition he and former Nissan executive Greg Kelly, who is also being detained, are alleged to have continued to underreport Ghosn’s income through to March this year, increasing the overall underreported amount by 4bn yen.

Public broadcaster NHK said the 64-year-old had denied the latest allegation. He and Kelly have also denied two other charges of financial misconduct in relation to Ghosn’s salary.

Prosecutors now have 48 hours to question Ghosn over the latest allegation, and can then apply to detain him for 10 days, with the option of requesting a further 10-day extension.

Kelly, who was not re-arrested on Friday, is seeking bail, according to a court statement.

Ghosn, however, faces spending Christmas and possibly the start of next year in his tiny cell at a Tokyo detention centre.

Friday’s dramatic turn of events came just hours after Ghosn vowed to clear his name. “Things as they stand are absolutely unacceptable,” he said through his lawyer, according to NHK. “I want to have my position heard and restore my honour in court.”

The justice minister, Takashi Yamashita, said foreign criticism of the length of Ghosn’s detention, during which he has been interrogated without his lawyers present, was “unwarranted”.

But experts said the prosecutors’ decision to re-arrest him reflected poorly on the country’s criminal justice system. “The Japanese penal system has been revealed to the wider world. It is not necessarily Japan’s best side and this is not good for business,” said Lionel Vincent, a Tokyo-based lawyer.

Ghosn has experienced a rapid fall from grace since he was first arrested as soon as he arrived in Tokyo on his private jet. The Frenchman, who was born in Brazil and is of Lebanese descent, is credited with saving Nissan from near-bankruptcy 20 years ago and of forging a successful alliance with Renault and Mitsubishi Motors.

But the case has exposed differences between Renault and its partners in Japan over Ghosn’s alleged conduct that some industry observers say could threaten the three-way alliance. Shortly before Ghosn’s arrest, Nissan executives were said to be unhappy about his plans to strengthen the firm’s ties with the French carmaker.

Nissan and Mitsubishi sacked Ghosn as chairman soon after his arrest, but Renault has kept him on as chairman.

Japanese media said Ghosn had admitted signing documents to defer part of his salary until after retirement but said the amount did not need to be declared as it had not yet been definitively fixed.

He is believed to have attempted to defer a portion of his salary to avoid criticism from Nissan staff and shareholders that he was being paid too much.

Wire services contributed to the this report.

Contributor

Justin McCurry in Tokyo

The GuardianTramp

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