Former Nissan Chairman Carlos Ghosn Faces 2 New Charges, Criminal Complaint From Nissan

Ghosn was indicted Friday for aggravated breach of trust over an incident in 2008 as well as for understating his income.

Prior to Paris Motor Show
Uli Deck via Getty Images

Ex-Nissan Chairman Carlos Ghosn requested release on bail after he was indicted for two new charges in Tokyo last Friday, Reuters reports. Ghosn was charged with aggravated breach of trust for temporarily transferring his personal losses to Nissan in 2008. On top of that, Ghosn, his former aide Greg Kelly and Nissan were all charged for under-reporting Ghosn's income for three additional years through March 2018. 

To pile on even more, Nissan filed a criminal complaint against Ghosn on Friday for misusing a "significant amount" of company funds. "Nissan does not in any way tolerate such misconduct and calls for strict penalties," the company said in a statement republished by Reuters

Ghosn formerly headed up the alliance between automakers Nissan, Renault and Mitsubishi, and he was credited from saving Nissan from dire financial straights, but it's the way he allegedly enriched himself along the way that has gotten him in trouble. Ghosn and his aide Greg Kelly already faced several financial misconduct charges related to under-reporting Ghosn's income. He was quickly removed from his leadership roles at Nissan and Mitsubishi as a result, but strangely, not from Renault, where remains a chairman. 

After a court appearance on Tuesday, Ghosn claimed that he asked Nissan to temporarily assume his foreign exchange contracts after his bank asked for more collateral following the 2008-2009 financial crisis, according to Reuters. He also argues that this allowed him to remain in his position at Nissan without having to resign and use his retirement allowance as his collateral. His lawyer also claimed that Nissan agreed to this arrangement so long as all losses or gains belonged to Ghosn. Additionally, Ghosn said that the contracts had been transferred back to him and Nissan did not take on any losses as a result. 

Previous charges for Ghosn, Kelly, and Nissan were related to understating Ghosn's income to authorities between 2010 and 2015, so Friday's new charge extends that period of misconduct three more years. 

It's rare for Japanese courts to grant bail for defendants who deny their charges ahead of their trials, Reuters notes, so Ghosn may be out of luck on that. Even Ghosn's lawyer expects the ex-chairman to be held until his trial, which could be as long as six months away. 

Both Ghosn and Kelly deny all of the charges against them. Kelly, however, was able to post bail on Dec. 25, but remains unable to leave Japan without special permission. Kelly suffers from stenosis, a condition that compresses the spinal cord, and this was part of his argument to be released on bail, per CNBC. Instead of going to a previously scheduled surgery in the U.S., Kelly sought treatment for his stenosis at a hospital in Japan instead and has since been discharged, Reuters adds. 

Ghosn's request for bail doesn't relate to a major medical issue, although his lawyer has said that the 64-year-old former chairman currently has a fever, according to Reuters. Ghosn's wife Carole Ghosn, however, reached out to Human Rights Watch over Ghosn's allegedly harsh treatment in jail, Reuters reports. The group has since said that while Ghosn deserves no special treatment, his rights should not be violated in a "hostage"-style detainment system, either. Carole Ghosn's letter to Human Rights Watch claims that Ghosn is staying in an unheated cell without access to his usual medication and that he faces hours of interrogation each day. 

"For hours each day, the prosecutors interrogate him, browbeat him, lecture him and berate him, outside the presence of his attorneys, in an effort to extract a confession," Carole wrote, as quoted by Reuters. "No one should be forced to endure what my husband faces every day, particularly in a developed nation like Japan, the third largest economy in the world."

Prosecutors have argued against the release of both Ghosn and Kelly as they await their trial, as they are thought to be potential flight risks. If granted, Monday is a national holiday in Japan, so Ghosn will not be released until at least Tuesday.