April 3, 2019 / 1:23 AM / 7 months ago

Ghosn tweets about telling the truth as report says prosecutors readying new case

TOKYO (Reuters) - Ousted Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn promised to “tell the truth” at a news conference next week, taking to Twitter to announce his first briefing since being released on bail and hours after a report that prosecutors were preparing a fresh case against him.

FILE PHOTO: Former Nissan Motor Chairman Carlos Ghosn sits inside a car as he leaves his lawyer's office after being released on bail from Tokyo Detention House, in Tokyo, Japan, March 6, 2019. REUTERS/Issei Kato/File Photo

Ghosn, widely lauded for rescuing Nissan Motor Co from the brink of bankruptcy two decades ago, has experienced a dramatic fall from grace that shook the global auto industry and raised questions about the future of Nissan’s alliance with France’s Renault SA.

He was arrested in Tokyo in November and faces charges of financial misconduct and aggravated breach of trust over allegedly failing to report around $82 million in salary and temporarily transferring personal financial losses onto Nissan’s books during the financial crisis.

Released on $9 million bail last month, Ghosn has denied the charges, calling them “meritless” and saying he was the victim of a boardroom coup.

“I’m getting ready to tell the truth about what’s happening. Press conference on Thursday, April 11,” Ghosn tweeted from the @carlosghosn account on Twitter, which displayed the blue tick mark indicating it had been verified by the social media site.

The account was created this month. It was the sole tweet, posted in Japanese and English.

While Ghosn is under strict bail terms - including on internet usage - his lawyer, Junichiro Hironaka, told reporters the tweet did not violate those terms.

Hironaka also said there had been no requests from Tokyo prosecutors, after Japan’s Yomiuri newspaper and other media outlets reported authorities were preparing a fresh case against Ghosn over payments the automaker made to a business partner in Oman.

FRESH CHARGES?

Prosecutors are in discussions with the Supreme Public Prosecutors Office and others and plan to make a decision soon on whether to prosecute Ghosn on further charges of aggravated breach of trust, the newspaper said, citing sources involved in the case.

A spokesman for the Tokyo prosecutors office said he was not aware of any new investigation when contacted by Reuters.

Ghosn’s spokesman has previously said payments of $32 million made over nine years were rewards for the Oman firm being a top Nissan dealer. Such dealer incentives were not directed by Ghosn and the funds were not used to pay any personal debt, the spokesman said.

Sources told Reuters earlier this week that Renault had alerted French prosecutors after uncovering suspect payments to a Renault-Nissan business partner in Oman while Ghosn was chief executive of the French automaker.

Nissan had previously established its own regional subsidiary made questionable payments of more than $30 million to the Oman distributor, Suhail Bahwan Automobiles (SBA).

Evidence sent to French prosecutors late last week showed that much of the cash was subsequently channeled to a Lebanese company controlled by Ghosn associates, the sources said.

Reuters has not been able to reach SBA for comment on the matter.

Additional reporting by Chang-Ran Kim, Kaori Kaneko, Sam Nussey and Kwiyeon Ha; Writing by David Dolan; Editing by Christopher Cushing and Mark Potter

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