JAPANESE authorities on Monday hit Carlos Ghosn with a fresh charge of aggravated breach of trust, the fourth indictment against the former Nissan boss who promptly filed for bail.
Experts say Monday’s charge is the most serious yet levelled against the auto sector legend, whose rollercoaster case has gripped Japan and the business world since his dramatic arrest in November over alleged financial misconduct.
According to a statement from the Tokyo prosecutors’ office, Ghosn is accused of funnelling millions of dollars in Nissan funds to a dealership in the Middle East and siphoning off around $5 million for personal use.
The transfers were made “with the purpose of benefiting himself by receiving part of the money”, prosecutors charged.
Shin Kukimoto from the Tokyo prosecutors’ office told reporters they had “enough evidence for guilty verdicts”.
However, the 65-year-old strenuously denies all allegations against him and insists they have been cooked up in a “plot” by Nissan executives wary of his plans to bring the Japanese car giant closer to its French partner Renault.
Ghosn’s lead lawyer Junichiro Hironaka filed for bail just hours after the charge and said he was confident his client would be released as he prepares to fight the allegations.
“In order to prove his innocence at a trial as soon as possible, we want [the court] to approve our bail request so that we can prepare a good defence,” Hironaka told reporters.
Ghosn has already won bail once before – but under strict conditions such as agreeing not to leave the country and living under surveillance.
When he last won bail, Ghosn walked out of the detention centre in front of the world’s media dressed like a Japanese labourer with a cap and a face mask in an apparent attempt to give reporters the slip.
He also had to stump up one billion yen ($9 million) for bail but Hironaka said they were prepared to produce more cash if necessary to secure his release.
Monday was the end of the maximum period authorities had to question Ghosn, who is now technically in pre-trial detention.