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Japanese Prosecutors Bring New Charge Against Carlos Ghosn



TOKYO — Japanese prosecutors on Monday formally charged Carlos Ghosn, the former head of the Nissan-Renault auto alliance, with breach of trust, piling a new count of financial impropriety onto his existing charges in a move that adds pressure on him and ensures he remains jailed.

Mr. Ghosn, who continues to maintain his innocence, has been in a detention center on the outskirts of Tokyo since April 4, when prosecutors swarmed into his apartment in an early morning raid. They seized evidence and dragged him off to jail — his fourth arrest in the case so far — before attempting to take his wife in for questioning.

He was initially arrested in November on suspicion of hiding the true amount of his executive compensation and spent over 100 days in detention, racking up two additional arrests. Including Monday’s charge, prosecutors ultimately indicted him on four charges of financial wrongdoing, including temporarily shifting his personal financial losses onto Nissan’s books.

He was released in early March after paying $9 million in bail and agreeing to strict limits on his activities that put him under virtual house arrest.

But prosecutors soon revealed that the original charges were just a prelude to more serious allegations: After the April raid, prosecutors said they were investigating Mr. Ghosn over allegations that he used a Nissan subsidiary to redirect $5 million to himself.

Prosecutors have not revealed the details of the allegations, but an internal investigation by Nissan found that Mr. Ghosn had authorized over $30 million in payments to a business partner in Oman, according to a person familiar with the report, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the company has not yet made its full findings public.

Part of that money was sent on to a Lebanese company controlled by Mr. Ghosn, who then passed funds on to companies controlled by his wife, Carole, and his son, according to Japanese news reports. Mrs. Ghosn appeared before a Japanese judge in mid-April to answer questions about the allegations against her husband.

Neither Mr. Ghosn’s wife nor his son has been accused of wrongdoing. Mrs. Ghosn has said her husband is innocent. His representatives have said the payments were for business purposes only.

In a short statement Monday, the Tokyo prosecutor’s office said that it had presented Mr. Ghosn with “an additional charge for violating the Companies Act.”

Nissan on the same day said that it had filed a criminal complaint against Mr. Ghosn in relation to the charges.

“Nissan filed the complaint after determining that payments made by Nissan to an overseas vehicle sales company via a subsidiary were in fact directed by Ghosn for his personal enrichment and were not necessary from a business standpoint,” the company said in a statement.

Since Mr. Ghosn’s most recent arrest, his Japanese legal team has fought to have him released, taking its appeal to the country’s Supreme Court. But judges declined to set him free, won over by the prosecutors’ argument that Mr. Ghosn would be able to tamper with evidence or witnesses if he were released.

Monday was the last day for prosecutors to either release Mr. Ghosn or charge him, following his arrest this month.

His legal team has filed a new bail application, a spokesman for Mr. Ghosn said.

Mr. Ghosn’s treatment by Japan’s legal system has brought global attention to the harsh tactics employed by the country’s prosecutors.

His family and legal team have argued that the multiple arrests are intended to force Mr. Ghosn into confessing to a crime he did not commit.

Japanese prosecutors are notorious for extracting confessions from suspects, sometimes under duress: In 2017, 88 percent of those who went to trial confessed, according to data maintained by Japan’s Supreme Court.

In a video statement after his arrest this month, Mr. Ghosn insisted that he was innocent, saying that the charges against him were the result of a plot concocted by Nissan executives afraid of taking the blame for years of bad financial results at the company.

“My biggest wish,” he said, “is to have a fair trial.”

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