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April 4, 2019

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Japan officials may hit Ghosn with new charge

Tokyo prosecutors are considering pressing a fresh charge on former Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn, local media said yesterday, which would be the latest twist in the auto tycoon’s dramatic downfall.

Investigators are eyeing a possible aggravated breach of trust charge related to at least US$32 million in Nissan funds transferred to a distributor in Oman, according to local news agency Jiji Press.

Some of the money is believed to have been used to buy a luxury boat allegedly used by Ghosn and his family, according to a source familiar with the matter.

If Tokyo prosecutors move forward with the case, it would be the fourth criminal charge against the 65-year-old former high-flying auto executive, who denies all allegations.

Ghosn said yesterday on his Twitter account that “I’m getting ready to tell the truth about what’s happening.”

He has kept silent, publicly, since his release on bail last month after nearly four months of detention.

Ghosn already faces three charges of financial misconduct over allegations he under-reported his compensation and sought to transfer personal losses to Nissan’s books.

Tokyo district prosecutors are discussing the case with more senior colleagues before deciding whether to proceed, Japanese media said.

If prosecutors were to file new charges, it would not necessarily mean Ghosn returns to the detention center where he spent more than three months before winning bail on March 6, according to a local lawyer.

“The prosecutor can hit Ghosn with new charges without sending him back to prison. Prosecutors would need to again justify a detention by saying he was a flight risk and could destroy evidence and the chances seem fairly slim,” said the lawyer, who asked to remain anonymous.

The news came after it emerged that lawyers for Renault — Nissan’s parent company that Ghosn also led — have handed over documents to prosecutors showing “millions of euros” in payments to the firm’s distributors in Oman.

An internal probe by Nissan, which is cooperating with prosecutors, has found Ghosn had approved over US$30 million in payments to a distributor in Oman, a person familiar with the matter said.

Some of this money ended up in personal accounts, or used for purchases and investments by Ghosn, mainly to buy a yacht and make investments via his son’s firm.

In a bolt from the blue that rocked Japan and the business world, Ghosn was arrested on November 19 when prosecutors stormed his private jet.


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