TOKYO (AFP) - Former Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn will remain in custody until at least April 14, a Japanese court ruled yesterday, as prosecutors quiz him over fresh allegations of financial misconduct.
The Tokyo District Court said in a statement it had accepted a request from prosecutors to detain the 65-year-old auto tycoon for a further 10-day period that can subsequently be extended once more.
The “full term of the detention is 14th” of April,
the court said.
Ghosn’s lead lawyer Junichiro Hironaka has vowed to appeal the decision, but the court rarely overturns
Authorities are looking into new allegations that Ghosn transferred some $15 million in Nissan funds between late 2015 and mid-2018 to a dealership
They suspect around $5 million of these funds were siphoned off for Ghosn’s use, including for the purchase of a luxury yacht and financing personal investments.
Prosecutors say Ghosn “betrayed” his duty not to cause losses to Nissan “in order to benefit himself.”
Ghosn denies the allegations and says he is also innocent of the three formal charges he faces: two charges of deferring his salary and concealing that in official shareholders’ documents, and a further charge of seeking to shift investment losses to the firm.
Stephen Givens, an American attorney practising law in Japan since 1987, told AFP the latest allegations were the most serious yet.
“If the facts are true... that is stealing from the company, that is embezzlement, that is terrible,” said Givens, who is not connected with the Ghosn case.
“If that’s true, it is a serious charge. It differs very significantly from the previous charges that seem minor and technical. These are hurting Nissan or Nissan shareholders and benefiting Ghosn,” Givens added.
Justice Minister Takashi Yamashita, a former Tokyo prosecutor himself, hit back at growing criticism of the Japanese system, sometimes described as “hostage justice” due to long detention periods for suspects aimed at forcing a confession.
“I understand that it is being handled appropriately in accordance with the stipulation of the code of criminal procedure. So the criticism is not warranted,” Yamashita told journalists.
Ghosn launched a counter-attack in an interview with French channel TF1, recorded just before his dawn arrest on Wednesday.
Describing himself as “a combative man and an innocent man”, he vowed to “defend myself to the bitter end”.
And he voiced concern that he would not be given a fair trial, with around 99 percent of trials in Japan resulting in a conviction.
“I have doubts over the way the judgement will take place. If there is a fair ruling, I am very confident but if it is not fair, I am worried about what will happen,” said Ghosn.
His rearrest came just days after news that Renault, which Ghosn also once headed, had handed French prosecutors documents showing suspicious transfers worth million of euros authorised by the auto tycoon.
At the end of the initial 10 days of questioning, prosecutors can request a further 10-day extension. After this, they must either press formal charges, release him without charge or rearrest him to probe further allegations.
In his French TV interview, Ghosn lashed out at the conditions in the detention centre, saying he was deprived of his watch, forced to sleep with the light on and forbidden from contact with his loved ones.