Japanese prosecutors arrested ousted Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn for a fourth time on Thursday on charges of trying to enrich himself to the tune of $5 million at the automaker’s expense, in what media reports linked to payments to an Omani dealer.
The latest arrest, which national broadcaster NHK described as a highly unusual move for someone who is already released on bail, marks the latest dramatic twist in the once-feted executive’s fall from grace.
Tokyo prosecutors said Ghosn had caused Nissan Motor Co Ltd $5 million in losses over a 2-1/2-year period to July 2018, in breach of his legal duties to Nissan and with the goal of enriching himself.
The Kyodo news agency reported that the losses involved the shifting of funds through a dealer in Oman to the account of a company Ghosn effectively owned. The agency did not cite any sources.
“My arrest this morning is outrageous and arbitrary,” Ghosn said in a statement emailed by a US-based spokesman.
“It is part of another attempt by some individuals at Nissan to silence me by misleading the prosecutors. Why arrest me except to try to break me? I will not be broken. I am innocent of the groundless charges and accusations against me.”
More than a dozen officials from the Tokyo prosecutor’s office visited his residence early on Thursday and asked him to submit to questioning, NHK said. A silver van believed to be carrying Ghosn later left the residence, it said.
Footage of the vehicle leaving the residence showed its windows covered with curtains, making it impossible to see who was riding inside. No one was immediately available for comment at the Tokyo prosecutors’ office.
The arrest comes just a day after Ghosn pledged on Twitter that he would hold a news conference on April 11 to “tell the truth” about the allegations against him. “After being wrongly imprisoned for 108 days, my biggest hope and wish today is for a fair trial,” Ghosn added in the emailed statement.
“I was scheduled to present my story in a press conference next week; by arresting me again, the prosecutors have denied me that opportunity, for now, but I am determined that the truth will come out. I am confident that if tried fairly, I will be vindicated.”
Ghosn was first arrested in Tokyo in November and faces charges of financial misconduct and aggravated breach of trust over allegedly failing to report around $82 million in salary and temporarily transferring personal financial losses onto Nissan’s books during the financial crisis.
Released on $9 million bail on March 6, Ghosn says he is the victim of a boardroom coup. Ghosn’s lawyer, Junichiro Hironaka, called the latest arrest “inappropriate”.
Sources told Reuters earlier this week that French automaker and Nissan partner Renault SA had alerted French prosecutors after uncovering suspect payments to a Renault-Nissan business partner in Oman while Ghosn was chief executive of the French automaker.
Ghosn’s spokesman has previously said payments of $32 million made over nine years were rewards for the Oman firm being a top Nissan dealer. Such dealer incentives were not directed by Ghosn and the funds were not used to pay any personal debt, the spokesman said.
Nissan had previously established its own regional subsidiary made questionable payments of more than $30 million to the Oman distributor, Suhail Bahwan Automobiles (SBA).
Evidence sent to French prosecutors late last week showed that much of the cash was subsequently channeled to a Lebanese company controlled by Ghosn associates, the sources said. Reuters has not been able to reach SBA for comment on the matter.
The board of Renault moved to scrap Ghosn’s pension worth about 770,000 euros ($865,000) annually, three sources with knowledge of the matter said on Wednesday.
Directors also recommended that shareholders block a further 224,000 euros in Ghosn’s variable pay for 2018, two sources told Reuters, following a meeting that also approved governance changes reducing the size of the board to 18 members from 20.