In another bizarre plot twist in Carlos Ghosn’s long-running legal troubles, the former Nissan Motor Co. chairman may be re-arrested on fresh charges just as he was preparing to tell his side of the story.
The drama surrounding the former auto czar reignited on Wednesday when he tweeted that he’s planning to hold a news conference on April 11 to “tell the truth” about accusations against him for alleged financial crimes. Soon after, the Sankei newspaper reported that Ghosn would be re-arrested by prosecutors in Tokyo on a new charge of breach of trust.
Ghosn, who’s been free on bail for almost a month, tweeted from a newly created and verified Twitter account without specifying a time or place. The former auto executive, who has been preparing for his trial on charges of financial misconduct, has vigorously denied accusations of transferring personal trading losses to the automaker and under-reporting his income. He was arrested Nov. 19 and jailed for more than 100 days.
“The new charges sound more substantive and serious than the two outstanding criminal charges,” said Stephen Givens, a professor of law at Sophia University in Tokyo. “Things could change for Ghosn’s prospects if it turns out he was actually embezzling Nissan money.”
The sudden arrest of the car titan destabilized an alliance between Nissan, Renault SA and Mitsubishi Motors Corp. Then last month, the three automakers announced a new governance structure designed for smoother and more equitable decision-making. Another re-arrest is unlikely to impact the manufacturers, but could put Nissan and Renault under closer scrutiny. That’s because the new charges may be related to improper payments made to a Ghosn acquaintance in Oman, according to the Sankei.
Renault and Nissan have uncovered payments made under Ghosn that allegedly went toward corporate jets, a yacht and his son’s startup, leading the French carmaker to alert authorities about potential wrongdoing, people familiar with the matter have said. The transactions were revealed in probes and amounted to millions of euros to companies in Oman and Lebanon that may have then been used for the personal benefit of Ghosn and his family, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the details aren’t public.
Another question is whether a re-arrest might result in Ghosn being put back into jail. Prosecutors may choose to do so if they think they need to question him in detail over the new charges.
“Since the court, by releasing him, has already determined that he is not a risk to flee or destroy evidence, it will be interesting to see if the new arrest leads to a new detention,” Givens said.
The prospect of being detained again may spur Ghosn and his lawyers to hold a news conference earlier than the scheduled date. His lead lawyer Junichiro Hironaka had spoken on his behalf until now, most recently this week. The length of Ghosn’s detention and peculiarities of Japan’s legal process has cast global attention on the archipelago’s criminal justice system. That’s also created an incentive for Ghosn to try his case in the court of public opinion.
Until Wednesday, Ghosn had never tweeted under a personal account. The Twitter handle @carlosghosn says he joined in April 2019 and describes him as “Father, Husband, Former Chairman and CEO of Nissan Motors, Renault, Former Chairman of Mitsubishi Motors, Former Chairman and CEO of the Alliance.”
Within the first hour of the inaugural tweet, the account amassed more than 800 followers and was evolving in real time. It initially lacked Twitter’s blue check mark indicating a verified account, but that popped up later. Then, Japanese characters appeared next to his name and a background image of the former auto executive gazing over a Japanese temple was added. A picture of a thinner and grayer Ghosn standing in front of cherry blossoms, currently blooming in Tokyo, was on the account from the beginning.