Tokyo court denies request for Nissan Ghosn's release on bail

TOKYO (Reuters) – The Tokyo District Court on Tuesday denied former Nissan Motor Co Ltd Chairman Carlos Ghosn’s request for release on bail after his indictment last week on two new charges, including for aggravated breach of trust.

Ghosn awaits a lengthy criminal trial that could be as long as six months away, after his surprise arrest on Nov. 19.

Last week, Ghosn was indicted for aggravated breach of trust for temporarily transferring personal investment losses to Nissan in 2008, and under-reporting his salary for three years through March 2018. He has denied the charges.

It is rare in Japan for defendants who deny their charges to be granted bail ahead of trial.

The arrest of the once-feted executive, who masterminded Nissan’s financial turnaround two decades ago, sent shockwaves through the auto industry and rocked Nissan’s alliance with Mitsubishi Motors Corp and France’s Renault SA.

Ghosn has since been removed from chairmanship positions at Nissan and Mitsubishi, but remains chairman and chief executive at Renault.

The French government, Renault’s biggest shareholder, will support Renault’s decision to keep Ghosn at its helm unless it becomes clear he will be “chronically incapacitated” by the Japanese investigation, officials said on Monday.

Tuesday is likely to see “important developments” in relation to that question, one French official said.

The case has also put Japan’s criminal justice system under international scrutiny and sparked criticism for some of its practices, including keeping suspects in detention for long periods and prohibiting defense lawyers from being present during interrogations, which can last eight hours a day.

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Nissan CEO appeals to Renault board to review Ghosn findings

PARIS (Reuters) – Nissan (7201.T) believes alliance partner Renault’s (RENA.PA) board will back its decision to oust Chairman Carlos Ghosn when it sees details of the Japanese carmaker’s investigation into his alleged misconduct, Chief Executive Hiroto Saikawa said in a newspaper interview.

Nissan understands that the investigation findings it provided to Renault lawyers more than one month ago have still not been shared directly with the Renault board, Saikawa said in the interview published in French daily Les Echos on Monday.

“All that I ask is that the directors of Renault should have access to the full dossier,” Saikawa said. “I think that once that’s the case, they will draw the same conclusions as we did.”

Ghosn’s Nov. 19 arrest and subsequent dismissal by Nissan has deepened tensions with 43.4 percent-owner Renault, which has so far maintained Ghosn in office as its chairman and CEO, citing the presumption of innocence.

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Renault-Nissan's Ghosn received 7 million euros from Dutch JV: Les Echos

PARIS (Reuters) – Ousted Renault-Nissan alliance (RENA.PA)(7201.T) chairman Carlos Ghosn was paid 7 million euros ($8 million) through a Dutch joint venture between Nissan and Mitsubishi (7211.T), French financial daily Les Echos reported on its website on Sunday.

Les Echos said that Nissan and Mitsubishi in June 2017 set up joint venture Nissan Mitsubishi BV (NMBV) in the Netherlands to pay bonuses to staff and managers of the two carmakers.

The JV’s top directors were not initially supposed to receive bonuses from the unit but in February 2018 — and without the knowledge of other directors — Ghosn was hired as an employee by the unit, which made him eligible for payments, the paper reported.

A Nissan spokesman did not immediately respond to a request from comment.

Ghosn has been detained in Japan since his arrest on Nov. 19 and faces charges including under-reporting of his income for the five years through 2015. He denied those charges at a court appearance last week.

Reuters last week reported that one of Ghosn’s senior executives received an additional six-figure salary via the Dutch joint venture overseeing Renault’s alliance with Nissan. There is nothing to suggest that the payments were illegal, but they highlight governance issues and potential conflicts of interest.

($1 = 0.8732 euros)

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Nissan China chief Jose Munoz resigns amid broadened Ghosn probe

(Reuters) – Nissan Motor Co Ltd’s (7201.T) head of China operations Jose Munoz has resigned following reports that the Japanese automaker has broadened its investigation into ousted Chairman Carlos Ghosn’s alleged financial misconduct.

Reuters had reported earlier on Friday that the Japanese automaker was looking into decisions made in the United States by Munoz who led Nissan’s North American operations from 2016 to 2018.

He joined the automaker in 2004 in Europe and led its ambitious expansion in North America after the global financial crisis. Since then, Nissan has succeeded in raising its market share in the United States.

In a LinkedIn post bit.ly/2RsrNwQ on Friday, Munoz said, “I am proud to have played a role in achieving 74 percent growth in North America, gaining market dominance in Mexico, getting China market share on the growth path, and helping the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance become the highest volume group in the world.”

Earlier this year, Nissan tapped Munoz to oversee its operations in China where it plans to ramp up sales over the next few years. Since then, the world’s largest auto market has been showing signs of a slowdown, prompting the automaker to cut local production plans in the coming months.

China is Nissan’s second-largest market, accounting for roughly one-quarter of its annual global vehicle sales. Last year the company planned to boost sales to make China its biggest market in terms of vehicle sales by 2022.

Munoz, 53, who is also the automaker’s Chief Performance Officer, has been with Nissan for 15 years. He was recently placed on a leave of absence due to the ongoing probe.

Munoz, who is widely seen within the industry as close to Ghosn, was a “person of interest” in the probe and it was not clear whether he would be accused of any wrongdoing.

“I look forward to continuing to assist Nissan in its investigations,” Munoz said in the post.

Ghosn, once the most celebrated executives in the auto industry and the anchor of Nissan’s alliance with France’s Renault SA (RENA.PA), has been charged with under-reporting his income. On Friday, he was also charged with aggravated breach of trust, accused of shifting personal investment losses worth 1.85 billion yen ($17 million) to Nissan.

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Nissan ex-chief Ghosn seeks bail after indictment on two new charges

TOKYO (Reuters) – Nissan ex-Chairman Carlos Ghosn has requested his release on bail after being indicted in Tokyo on Friday on two new charges, his lawyers said, as the once-feted auto executive awaits a lengthy criminal trial that could be as long as six months away.

Ghosn was the overlord of an alliance that included Nissan Motor (7201.T), Mitsubishi Motors (7211.T) and France’s Renault (RENA.PA), until his surprise November arrest and removal as chairman of both Japanese automakers sent shockwaves through the industry.

The former executive, lauded for rescuing Nissan from the financial brink two decades ago, was charged with aggravated breach of trust for temporarily transferring personal investment losses to Nissan in 2008.

Ghosn, former Representative Director Greg Kelly and Nissan itself were also charged for understating Ghosn’s income for three years through March 2018. The three parties have already been indicted for the same charge covering the years 2010-2015.

Ghosn and Kelly have denied all charges. Nissan said it regretted any concern caused to its stakeholders.

It is rare in Japan for defendants who deny their charges to be granted bail ahead of trial. Kelly posted bail on Christmas Day and is unable to leave Japan without special permission. Ghosn’s lawyer, Motonari Otsuru, expects his client to be held until trial, which he said could begin in about six months.

If bail is granted, Ghosn – who is suffering from fever, according to his lawyer – would not likely be released until Tuesday given that Monday is public holiday.

Kelly, a Ghosn ally, was hospitalized for treatment of a pre-existing neck problem after his release and has since been discharged, said his lawyer Yoichi Kitamura.

“This second indictment for Kelly comes as no surprise as it merely makes what was a five year period for the first into eight years,” Kitamura said.

Kitamura said he expects Ghosn and Kelly to be tried together on the two charges of understating income, and that he will work closely with Ghosn’s legal team.

NISSAN COMPLAINT

Also on Friday, Nissan said it had filed a criminal complaint against its former leader.

The automaker, in a statement, said it filed the complaint “on the basis of Ghosn’s misuse of a significant amount of the company’s funds. Nissan does not in any way tolerate such misconduct and calls for strict penalties.”

Ghosn, 64, appeared in court on Tuesday for the first time since his arrest, looking thinner and greyer. He denied the allegations, calling them “meritless” and “unsubstantiated”.

He said he had asked Nissan to temporarily take on his foreign exchange contracts after the 2008-2009 financial crisis prompted his bank to call for more collateral. He said he did so to avoid having to resign and use his retirement allowance for collateral.

Ghosn’s lawyer Otsuru on Tuesday said Nissan had agreed to the arrangement on condition that any losses or gains would be Ghosn’s. Ghosn said the contracts were transferred back to him and that Nissan did not incur a loss.

On Thursday, the boards of Nissan and controlling shareholder Renault – where Ghosn remains chairman – met for an update on the matter. Nissan later said it remained committed to the alliance.

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Japanese prosecutors want Ghosn to sign confession, says son: paper

PARIS (Reuters) – Japanese prosecutors want Carlos Ghosn, the detained auto executive who oversaw an alliance that sold 10 million vehicles a year, to confess to financial misconduct, his son told France’s weekly Journal du Dimanche (JDD).

Ghosn has been held in a Tokyo detention center since his Nov. 19 arrest on allegations of under-reporting his income at Nissan Motor Co Ltd. He is also accused of aggravated breach of mistrust in transferring personal investment losses to Nissan, from which he has since been ousted as chairman.

Ghosn denies the charges against him.

Anthony Ghosn, 24, has not been allowed by Japanese authorities to see his father, who he said had lost 10 kilograms in weight eating three bowls of rice a day in detention.

In his first interview since Japanese prosecutors seized his father as he stepped off his private jet, Anthony Ghosn said his father would fight to clear his name.

Asked if his father spoke Japanese, Anthony Ghosn said he did not. “The paradox is that the confession they want him to sign is written exclusively in Japanese.”

Ghosn’s arrest marked a dramatic fall for a business leader once hailed for rescuing Nissan from the brink of bankruptcy.

The executive has been treated like others in detention, held in a small, chilly room, and denied a lawyer during interrogation.

Ghosn’s detention has drawn scrutiny upon the legal system in Japan, where legal experts say prosecutors often try to force confessions from suspects. Deputy prosecutor at the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office, Shin Kukimoto, last month said no such method was being used with Ghosn.

Anthony Ghosn told the JDD that his father’s lawyer has still not seen the prosecutor’s full case file.

“From what I understand, in the Japanese system, when a person is held in detention, the prosecutor reveals little by little the elements that he has at his disposal. On each occasion, my father then shares these details with his lawyers.”

Ghosn is set to make his first public appearance in seven weeks at a Tokyo court on Tuesday after he requested an open hearing to hear the reason for his continued detention.

“For the first time, he will be able to answer the allegations against him, to give his version of events,” Anthony Ghosn said, adding his father would appear in prison attire and be handcuffed.

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Renault union calls for more transparency over Dutch holding

PARIS (Reuters) – France’s CGT union has called for more transparency at Renault (RENA.PA) and its Dutch holding company and asked the French government, one of the carmaker’s shareholders, to try to shed light on its workings, a CGT representative said on Thursday.

Renault, and its alliance with Nissan Motor Co (7201.T), has been in the spotlight after the partnership’s architect Carlos Ghosn was arrested in mid-November in Japan amid allegations his Nissan income was understated.

The CGT wrote to French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire in early December questioning the way Renault had handled the affair and to denounce a lack of transparency at RNBV, a joint Renault-Nissan holding company based in the Netherlands, FranceInfo reported on Thursday.

A CGT spokesman confirmed the union had reached out to Le Maire and to Renault’s deputy CEO Thierry Bollore, adding it was calling for clarity on additional wage payments made via RNBV to an unidentified member of the French carmaker’s executive committee.

“Workers have no information about RNBV,” the CGT spokesman said.

Spokesmen for Le Maire and for Renault declined to comment. The French state owns 15 percent of Renault.

Executives from both carmakers in the Renault-Nissan alliance looked at least twice at legal ways to pay Ghosn undisclosed income through the partners’ shared finances, including via RNBV, Reuters reported earlier in December.

The two efforts discussed were ultimately abandoned.

Ghosn, who remains Renault’s chairman and chief executive but was ousted as Nissan’s chairman, has been in a Tokyo jail since mid-November.

He had been expected to possibly go free on bail last Friday but was re-arrested by Japanese prosecutors on new allegations of making Nissan shoulder $16.6 million in personal investment losses.

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Nissan's Kelly granted bail by Tokyo court; Christmas release possible

TOKYO (Reuters) – Former Nissan Motor Representative Director Greg Kelly was granted bail by a Tokyo court on Tuesday, raising the possibility he could be freed before Christmas was over, although Carlos Ghosn, the automaker’s ousted chairman, remains in custody.

Kelly’s bail was set at 70 million yen ($635,612), the Tokyo District Court said in a statement. The court later said he had paid the bail in cash.

Kelly has been detained along with his former boss since their first arrest on Nov. 19 on suspicion of understating Ghosn’s income in financial statements for several years. Neither Kelly nor Ghosn have been able to defend themselves in public, so Kelly’s release could give him the first opportunity to do so.

The arrests have jolted the global car industry and strained Nissan’s alliance with French car maker Renault SA. Both Kelly and Ghosn remain on the Japanese car maker’s board but without representative rights.

Public broadcaster NHK and other Japanese media first reported the court’s granting of bail to Kelly.

NHK said the decision meant Kelly could be released as early as Tuesday from the detention center, where a crowd of reporters and camera crew had gathered since morning awaiting his possible release.

Prosecutors appealed the decision, the court said. Prosecutors said they had no comment on the matter.

If released on bail, Kelly could be barred from leaving Japan or talking to people related to the case, NHK said, although exceptions can be made for overseas travel on a case-by-case basis.

Kelly’s wife, Dee Kelly, appealed for his release in a video statement last week, stating her husband had been “wrongly accused as part of a power grab by several Nissan executives”, that he and Ghosn “fully believe that they did not break the law” and citing her husband’s need for surgery for spinal stenosis.

A Nissan spokesman said the car maker was not in a position to comment on the latest twist in the more-than-month-long saga.

“The company’s own investigation uncovered substantial and convincing evidence of misconduct, resulting in a unanimous board vote to dismiss Ghosn and Kelly as chairman and representative director. Our investigation is ongoing,” the spokesman also said.

The same Tokyo court had extended on Sunday Ghosn’s detention for 10 days, following fresh allegations of making Nissan shoulder personal investment losses.

Ghosn was re-arrested on Friday based on suspicions that around October 2008 he shifted personal trades to Nissan to make it responsible for 1.85 billion yen ($16.6 million) in appraisal losses, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors also said Ghosn had inflicted damage on Nissan by having it deposit a total of $14.7 million on four occasions between June 2009 and March 2012 into a related bank account.

That extension of his detention means Ghosn will remain in Tokyo’s main detention center, where he has been confined since his arrest in November, at least until Jan. 1.

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Japan court extends Ghosn detention by 10 days

TOKYO (Reuters) – A Japanese court on Sunday extended for 10 days the detention of ousted Nissan Motor Co (7201.T) chairman Carlos Ghosn, who is facing new allegations of making the car maker shoulder $16.6 million in personal investment losses.

The extension announced by the Tokyo District Court means Ghosn will remain in Tokyo’s main detention center, where he has been confined since his arrest last month on initial allegations of financial misconduct.

Ghosn was re-arrested on Friday based on suspicions that around October 2008 he shifted personal trades to Nissan to make it responsible for 1.85 billion yen ($16.6 million) in appraisal losses, prosecutors said.

They said the move inflicted damage on Nissan by having it deposit a total of $14.7 million on four occasions between June 2009 and March 2012 into a related bank account.

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Renault seeks Nissan shareholder meeting as Ghosn crisis deepens

PARIS (Reuters) – Renault (RENA.PA) requested a full Nissan shareholder meeting, a source close to the company said – appearing to escalate the carmaker’s standoff with its Japanese alliance partner in the wake of the pay scandal engulfing Chairman and CEO Carlos Ghosn.

Thierry Bollore, the French group’s deputy CEO, issued the demand in a Dec. 14 letter to Nissan, the source said on Sunday, confirming a report in the Wall Street Journal.

“We respectfully ask that the board consider calling an extraordinary general meeting of Nissan shareholders as promptly as practicable,” Bollore wrote in the letter.

A Renault spokesman declined to comment.

Ghosn’s arrest in Japan for alleged financial misconduct has shaken the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance, with Nissan CEO Hiroto Saikawa calling for changes to weaken Renault’s control.

Renault owns 43.4 percent of Nissan, whose reciprocal 15 percent stake in its French parent carries no voting rights. Nissan in turn controls Mitsubishi via a 34 percent holding.

The call for a shareholder meeting will likely be seen as an attempted show of force by Renault’s interim management, led by Bollore and Mouna Sepehri, Ghosn’s long-standing chief of staff who also heads legal affairs and communications.

The letter made no mention of using the shareholder meeting to hire or fire Nissan board members but remained vague about its purpose, saying only that it would “allow for appropriate disclosure and discussion of governance and other matters”.

It added that the indictment of Nissan “creates significant risks to Renault, as Nissan’s largest shareholder, and to the stability of our industrial alliance”.

At a Dec. 13 Renault board meeting, directors were briefed on the Nissan investigation that led to Ghosn’s arrest. He was charged alongside Nissan this week over the company’s failure to declare $43 million in deferred income he had arranged to receive. He and alleged accomplice Greg Kelly remain in custody.

While Nissan ousted Ghosn days after his arrest, the Renault board reiterated its earlier decision to keep him in office. Directors have yet to be given access to the Nissan findings, which are being closely held by Renault lawyers.

Bollore’s demand for a Nissan shareholder meeting was a “management decision” that was not raised at the previous day’s board session, the company source said, adding that it had been discussed subsequently with “all of the directors”.

Senior director Philippe Lagayette is standing in as chairman. The French government, Renault’s biggest shareholder, is backing Michelin CEO Jean-Dominique Senard to replace Ghosn permanently as chairman, Le Figaro reported.

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