Former Nissan Motor Chairman Carlos Ghosn sits inside the car as he leaves his lawyer's office after being released on bail from Tokyo Detention House, in Tokyo, Japan, on March 6, 2019. File photo: REUTERS/ISSEI KATO
Former Nissan Motor Chairman Carlos Ghosn sits inside the car as he leaves his lawyer's office after being released on bail from Tokyo Detention House, in Tokyo, Japan, on March 6, 2019. File photo: REUTERS/ISSEI KATO

Tokyo — Ousted Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn took to Twitter on Wednesday, vowing to tell his side of the story, as Tokyo prosecutors reportedly weighed fresh charges over suspected financial misconduct.

In the latest twist in a roller-coaster of a case, Japanese media reported that authorities are probing a possible aggravated breach of trust charge related to at least $32m in Nissan funds transferred to a distributor in Oman.

Some of that 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 were to proceed, it would be the fourth criminal charge against the former high-flying automotive executive, who denies all allegations. 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 move ahead, Japanese media said. Prosecutors were not able to confirm the reports immediately but were due to hold a media briefing on Thursday.

Shortly after the reports emerged, a verified Twitter account in Ghosn’s name said he would be speaking to journalists next week. “I’m getting ready to tell the truth about what’s happening. Press conference on Thursday, April 11,” said the tweet, sent early on Wednesday afternoon in English then Japanese.

A spokesperson for the executive later confirmed the news conference in a statement to AFP.

The tweet sparked questions over his bail conditions — which was thought to include a ban on internet access — but his lead lawyer Junichiro Hironaka later insisted his client was within his rights. Asked about his use of Twitter, Hironaka told reporters camped outside his office: “We are not doing anything that violates the terms of his bail.”

Hironaka added he was not sure exactly who wrote the tweet.

‘Flight risk’

If prosecutors were to file new charges, it would not necessarily mean Ghosn returns to the detention centre where he spent more than three months before being given 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.

Hironaka said he was not aware of any fresh arrest warrant.

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 co-operating with prosecutors, has found Ghosn had approved more than $30m in payments to a distributor in Oman, a person familiar with the matter confirmed to AFP. Some of this money ended up in personal accounts, or was used for purchases and investments by Ghosn — mainly to buy a yacht and make investments via his son’s firm — according to the source.

A spokesperson for Ghosn has already rejected thee allegations.  “The payments made by Renault to the distributor in Oman have not been diverted from their commercial objectives and under no circumstances has all or part of such payments benefited Carlos Ghosn or his family,” said the representative in a statement in Paris on Tuesday.

In a bolt from the blue that rocked Japan and the business world, Ghosn was arrested on November 19 after prosecutors stormed his private jet at a Tokyo airport and took him into custody. He spent more than 100 days in detention with limited access to lawyers before being released on a bail of nearly $9m.

Nissan swiftly sacked him as chair and is also expected to remove him from the board at an extraordinary shareholders’ meeting slated for Monday.

AFP