Carlos Ghosn could spend the next year in a Tokyo jail awaiting trial after he was indicted for the second time since his arrest nearly two months ago.
Japanese prosecutors indicted the former Nissan chairman on two new charges on Friday. They allege that he misused his position for personal gain by transferring personal investment losses to the Japanese carmaker, and understated his income between 2015 and 2018.
Ghosn, who remains chairman and CEO of French automaker Renault (RNSDF), was first indicted last month on allegations of under-reporting his income by tens of millions of dollars between 2010 and 2015.
The auto executive’s Japanese lawyers applied for bail soon after the new indictment on Friday. If the bail application is rejected, Ghosn will spend at least another two months in jail, a detention period that can then be extended by the court for a month at a time. His lawyers can appeal in a higher court.
Ghosn’s legal team fears prosecutors will keep him in jail until a trial begins, which could take six months to a year, they said.
Ghosn has strongly denied the allegations against him. In a court hearing earlier this week, he said he had been unfairly detained on “meritless and unsubstantiated accusations.”
A judge in the Tokyo District Court said during the hearing that keeping Ghosn in jail during the investigation was justified because he posed a flight risk and could conceal evidence. Ghosn’s lawyers dispute those claims.
He faces a combined maximum sentence of 15 years in prison if found guilty of the charges.
Nissan and Greg Kelly, a former director at the firm who was arrested along with Ghosn but has since been released on bail, were also indicted Friday on fresh allegations of financial misconduct.
‘Fearful and very worried’
Ghosn’s wife said Thursday that she is “fearful and very worried” for his health after he developed a fever in jail. The auto executive has not been allowed to speak with family members in the time since his arrest on November 19, she said in a statement.
“I am pleading with the Japanese authorities to provide us with any information at all about my husband’s health,” Carole Ghosn said. “We are fearful and very worried his recovery will be complicated while he continues to endure such harsh conditions and unfair treatment.”
Japanese prosecutors on Thursday temporarily suspended their interrogations of Ghosn, who began feeling ill on Wednesday night, according to the office of his lawyer Motonari Otsuru. His temperature had returned to normal by Friday, Otsuru’s office said.
The case has sparked questions about the Japanese justice system and the ability of prosecutors to keep suspects in jail for extended periods of time while investigations continue.
Visits from lawyers, family and friends are strictly controlled by prosecutors in Japan, making it difficult for suspects to establish a defense or give their side of the story to the media.
Ghosn’s spectacular downfall following his arrest in November has shaken the international auto industry and strained the alliance he built between Nissan (NSANY), Renault and Mitsubishi Motors (MMTOF).
Since his arrest, Ghosn has been removed as chairman by Nissan and Mitsubishi. Renault and the French government have stood by him, presuming him innocent until proven otherwise.
Renault said in a statement Thursday that an internal investigation found all payments to its board members in 2017 and 2018 were in compliance with the law and “free from any fraud.” The company is still investigating payments to the board — of which Ghosn is a member — made in previous years.