Carlos Ghosn re-arrested in Japan over fresh allegations

Tokyo, JapanUpdated: Dec 21, 2018, 08:36 AM IST

File Photo Photograph:(AFP)

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According to local media, Ghosn has admitted signing documents to defer part of his salary

Prosecutors re-arrested former Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn over fresh allegations on Friday, apparently dashing his hopes of early release in the latest twist to a rollercoaster saga.

The case of the once-revered 64-year-old tycoon has gripped Japan since he was arrested completely out of the blue as he stepped off his private jet at Tokyo's Haneda Airport on November 19.

And in another unexpected development, Ghosn was arrested Friday on suspicion of transferring losses from personal financial investments to Nissan, causing damage to the company's assets, according to a statement from prosecutors.

He has already been formally charged with under-reporting his income by tens of millions of dollars over several years and faces a second batch of allegations that this continued for three further years.

However, the auto baron had had his hopes raised of being freed on bail after a court rejected a bid by prosecutors to extend his detention over the second set of allegations.

But this fresh arrest gives prosecutors 48 hours to question him on the new matter - possibly extended beyond that.

Since his stunning arrest last month, the once jet-setting executive has languished in a tiny cell in a detention centre in northern Tokyo, where he has complained about the cold and the rice-based menu.

His lengthy detention - in Japan, suspects can be "re-arrested" several times over different allegations - has sparked criticism, especially from abroad.

Ghosn has an unusually high profile for a foreign executive in Japan and was credited with turning around the struggling car giant Nissan and forging a three-way alliance with French manufacturer Renault and fellow Japanese firm Mitsubishi Motors.

He was seen as the glue holding together the fractious alliance and his arrest has exposed major rifts between Nissan -- which makes the most money -- and Renault, the dominant shareholder.

According to local media, 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 had not yet been definitively fixed.

The suspicion is that he sought to defer part of his pay to avoid criticism from staff and shareholders that his salary was too generous.

Both Nissan and Mitsubishi Motors promptly sacked Ghosn as chairman following his arrest, on the basis of a months-long internal Nissan investigation.

Renault has been much more cautious, keeping him on as chairman and CEO and appointing Thierry Bollore as interim boss.

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

On Thursday, the company pointedly declined to comment, saying it was "exclusively between the court and the prosecutors".

It said the decision to fire Ghosn was "based on the substantial and convincing evidence" from an internal investigation. 

"Both Ghosn and Kelly have violated their director duty of care," the firm added in a statement.

Nissan has also accused its former boss of other financial impropriety, including using Nissan funds to purchase luxury homes around the world.

One of these -- a luxurious, 8,600-square-foot spread with ocean views over Rio de Janeiro's famous Copacabana Beach -- has become the subject of a legal battle.

Last week, Ghosn family members entered the flat, removed "personal effects" and opened the safes, according to Nissan. This followed a court order giving Ghosn's representatives access despite objections from the Japanese firm.