Ghosn vows he won't be broken after rearrest in Tokyo
Former Nissan boss’s lawyer says new arrest isunnecessary and ‘against the spirit of the law’
Tokyo — Japanese prosecutors re-arrested Carlos Ghosn on Thursday on fresh allegations of financial misconduct, as the former auto tycoon slammed an “outrageous and arbitrary” detention and vowed he would “not be broken”.
In the early hours, officials raided the central Tokyo apartment the 65-year-old Ghosn has called home since winning bail in March after more than 100 days of detention on different charges.
It was the latest twist in a rollercoaster drama that has gripped Japan and the rest of the world since his shock arrest at a Tokyo airport on November 19.
Prosecutors said Ghosn had been detained over transfers of Nissan funds totalling $15m between late 2015 and the middle of 2018. They suspect Ghosn used $5m of that for personal expenditure.
“The suspect was responsible for overseeing the whole of Nissan’s operations and performing his duty loyally so as not to cause losses to Nissan, but he betrayed that duty in order to benefit himself,” they said.
Ghosn released a statement through his representatives attacking what he called the "outrageous and arbitrary" detention. “Why arrest me except to try to break me? I will not be broken,” said the former executive.
He has denied any wrongdoing and took to Twitter for the first time Wednesday to announce plans “to tell the truth” at an April 11 news conference that now looks unlikely.
Prosecutors can hold Ghosn for up to 22 days while they investigate the new claims and may re-arrest him again or seek to hold him in pre-trial detention.
Deputy chief prosecutor Shin Kukimoto justified the arrest by saying there was a “risk of destruction of evidence”.
Ghosn’s lawyer, Junichiro Hironaka, known as the “Razor” for his mental sharpness, told reporters the fresh arrest was “against the spirit of the law” and “should not be tolerated in a civilised nation”.
His client had expected prosecutors would re-arrest him and had therefore prepared a video, without specifying the contents or exactly when it would be released, Hironaka said.
He vowed to fight likely attempts by the prosecutor to extend the detention, claiming the arrest was “not necessary” and designed merely to pile pressure on Ghosn. He said prosecutors had confiscated not only diaries and documents belonging to Ghosn, but also the passport and phone of the tycoon’s wife, Carole.
Ghosn already faces three separate charges. The first two relate to the alleged deferring of $80m in income and concealing this in official documents to shareholders.
The third, more complex, charge is that he attempted to transfer personal losses to Nissan and paid a Saudi contact who provided collateral from the company funds.
In an interview with French television, Ghosn reiterated that he was “combative and innocent” but acknowledged “it’s hard”.
“A lot of lies have been told and these lies have come one after another,” he said.
Ghosn, who holds French, Brazilian and Lebanese nationalities, appealed to the French government to “defend” him and his “rights as a citizen”.
French economy minister Bruno Le Maire said Ghosn “should benefit from the presumption of innocence and consular protection” in an interview with BFMTV French television station.
Thursday’s arrest came after French car firm Renault, which Ghosn also once headed, handed French prosecutors documents showing the auto tycoon had authorised suspicious transfers worth millions of euros.
A Nissan spokesman said the company’s own internal probe had uncovered “substantial evidence of blatantly unethical conduct” and that their focus was on “addressing weaknesses in governance that enabled this misconduct.”
Ghosn had maintained his silence since paying $9m to win bail on March 6 when he walked out of his detention centre dressed in a workman’s uniform in a bizarre attempt to evade the world’s media.
Reports emerged early on Wednesday that prosecutors were considering further charges against him whereupon Ghosn suddenly popped up on Twitter to announce he would “tell the truth” about his case at a news conference on April 11.
His tweet, which his representatives confirmed was authentic, sparked questions about his bail conditions, which were thought to include a ban on internet use.
However, Hironaka insisted his client was acting within his rights, telling reporters: “My understanding is that he’s not banned from using the internet” and prosecutor Kukimoto said the arrest had nothing to do with the tweet.
Ghosn was largely credited with saving Nissan from the brink of bankruptcy by tying its fortunes to Mitsubishi and Renault. He has denounced his downfall as a “plot” by Nissan insiders worried he planned to push them into a full partnership with the French firm.