Prosecutors arrested Ghosn again on Thursday on suspicion he had tried to enrich himself at Nissan’s expense, in another dramatic twist that his lawyers said was an effort to silence him.
NHK said prosecutors suspect that Ghosn siphoned off part of the payments through a company where his wife, Carole, is an executive to purchase a yacht and a boat.
The prosecutors asked her to meet them for voluntary questioning as an unsworn witness, but the request was turned down, which prompted them to ask judges to question her on their behalf before they open the first hearing on the allegations, the broadcaster said.
Such a request gives judges the power to question on a mandatory basis witnesses who refuse to testify, according to NHK.
Ghosn’s lead lawyer, Junichiro Hironaka, said on Thursday prosecutors confiscated Ghosn’s mobile phone, documents, notebooks and diaries, along with his wife’s passport and mobile phone.
Nissan’s own corporate governance rules gave unusual powers to its former chairman, a business celebrity who was given extraordinary deference for having once rescued the automaker from financial ruin. Those powers included near-total say over how much and how he was paid, according to Nissan’s own internal rules.
Now, he is being accused of hiding a total of $70 million worth of salary and benefits paid to him, seemingly unknown to the company.
There was conflict over pay ever since the day he took over as Chief Operating Officer in 1999. He was in the hot seat for rewarding Nissan’s senior manager for performance over seniority.
Under Japanese law, prosecutors will be able to hold Ghosn for up to 22 days without charge. The fresh arrest opens up the possibility that he will be interrogated again without his lawyer present, as is the norm in Japan.
The additional charge would likely prolong Ghosn’s trial, which is expected to begin later this year, his lawyer has said, adding that loss of access to Ghosn’s trial-related documents could put his client at a disadvantage in fighting his case.