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, Mitsubishi Motors and France’s Renault, 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 hospitalised 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.
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.
Reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka, Tim Kelly, Chris Gallagher and Kaori Kaneko; Writing by Malcolm Foster and Tim Kelly; Editing by Christopher Cushing