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Ghosn declares innocence in 1st appearance in court

He may stay six months in jail while awaiting trial.


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Updated: January 9, 2019

Carlos Ghosn, the former Nissan Motor Co. chairman rearrested on suspicion of aggravated breach of trust under the Companies Law, denied the suspicions in a court hearing held Tuesday to disclose the grounds of his prolonged detention.

Appearing in court, Ghosn, 64, said in his statement of opinion that he had been wrongly accused and unfairly detained based on groundless accusations.

His lawyers intend to request that the court annul the detention after the hearing ends.

It was Ghosn’s first public appearance since he was arrested on Nov. 19 by the special investigation squad of the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office on suspicion of violating the Financial Instruments and Exchange Law by understating his executive remuneration in the company’s securities reports.

Appearing in court in a blackish suit at 10:30 a.m., he seemed somewhat thinner, with his jaw leaner. During questions put to the accused by Presiding Judge Yuichi Tada to establish his identity, Ghosn clearly stated his name and other details.

Ghosn was rearrested on suspicions of aggravated breach of trust that inflicted damage on Nissan. Those suspicions include that he had a valuation loss of about ¥1.85 billion, which he had incurred through his private investment, transferred to Nissan and that he had a total of $14.7 million (about ¥1.6 billion at the current exchange rate) of Nissan’s funds sent to an acquaintance in Saudi Arabia who helped him over guaranteeing credit for the investment contract.

After explaining these charges, the judge said, “Considering the content and nature of the case, the defendant’s depositions and so forth, there is a fear of the defendant approaching officials concerned to destroy evidence.”

The judge also said there is a possibility of Ghosn fleeing the country, as he has bases for living abroad.

Afterward, the hearing of the statement of opinions was held, in which Ghosn said with emphasis that he never inflicted damage on Nissan with the transfer of the valuation loss, one of the two suspicions.

With regard to the provision of money to his acquaintance, Ghosn explained that it was not a private disbursement but was made as compensation on the basis of a request from the acquaintance’s company, and with internal approval at Nissan.

The lawyers made a request to the court on Jan. 4 to disclose the reasons for the continued detention. During an interview held earlier, the defense said there are no suspicions that would support the continued detention and said they would ask the court to explain the reasons for the detention.

After he was arrested on suspicion of violating the Financial Instruments and Exchange Law on Nov. 19, he was indicted on Dec. 10. On the same day, he was rearrested on suspicion of violating the same law.

As the prosecution’s request for extending the detention related to the second arrest was not approved by the court later the same month, there emerged a possibility of his being bailed out. But on Dec. 21, he was rearrested on suspicion of aggravated breach of trust. The court approved his detention for this case until Jan. 11.

Grounds for detention

Disclosure of the grounds for detention is a procedure stipulated in the Code of Criminal Procedure, saying that the court shall explain at a public hearing the reasons to those suspects or defendants under detention, on the basis of Article 34 of the Constitution, which prohibits detention without adequate cause.

It is to be held within five days upon a request made by the suspect or the defendant party. In principle, the suspect or defendant himself and a defense counsel appear before the court, each allowed to state opinions before a judge for no longer than 10 minutes.

Also at the hearing, the judge states which of the required conditions for detention — such as of the likelihood of the destruction of evidence and flight risk — have constituted the grounds for detention, and then explains the circumstances to support the existence of those conditions.

The rights and wrongs of the detention, which have been decided following the arrest, are not reconsidered by the judge at this hearing. After listening to the judge’s explanation, the defendant party needs to make another request, if it seeks annulment of the detention.

According to judiciary statistics, about 100,000 detention decisions were made by the courts in the country in 2017. There were only 474 cases — less than 1 percent of the total — whereby the procedures for requesting disclosure of the grounds for detention were carried out.

There has been criticism from lawyers and others who say, “The grounds disclosed by judges are abstract, and the system has been eviscerated.”



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