Japanese prosecutors re-arrested former Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn over fresh allegations on Friday, apparently dashing his hopes of being home for Christmas in the latest twist to a rollercoaster saga.
The case of the once-revered 64-year-old tycoon has gripped Japan and the business world since he was arrested as he stepped off his private jet at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport on November 19.
He had appeared set for release on Friday after a court surprisingly rejected the prosecutors’ demand to extend his detention for further questioning.
But instead of being freed on bail, Ghosn was arrested Friday over separate allegations of financial wrongdoing.
“The accused was responsible for managing Nissan’s overall operations and for dutifully fulfilling his role as CEO not to cause damage to Nissan and its subsidiaries… but he took action that betrayed his role and caused financial damage to Nissan,” prosecutors alleged.
They alleged he transferred personal losses worth some 1.85 billion yen ($16.6 million) sustained in the 2008 financial crisis to Nissan.
He also stands accused of wiring some $14.7 million from Nissan funds to another company for his own benefit.
According to public broadcaster NHK, Ghosn denies this latest set of allegations.
The Franco-Brazilian-Lebanese businessman has already been formally charged with under-reporting his income by tens of millions of dollars over several years and faces a second batch of allegations that this continued for three further years.
On Thursday a court refused to extend his detention over the second set of allegations, reportedly because they were too similar to the first set.
But this fresh arrest gives prosecutors 48 hours to question him on the new matter. Under Japanese law, they can then apply for a fresh extension of 10 days, plus a further 10 days, to investigate the new claims.
His right-hand man, Greg Kelly, who faces the same initial charge, was not rearrested on Friday and his lawyer has requested bail, according to a court statement.
Since his stunning arrest last month, the once jet-setting executive has languished in a tiny cell in a detention centre in northern Tokyo, where he has complained about the cold and the rice-based menu.
His lengthy detention — in Japan, suspects can be “re-arrested” several times over different allegations — has sparked criticism, especially from abroad.
“The Japanese penal system has been revealed to the wider world. It is not necessarily Japan’s best side and this is not good for business,” Tokyo lawyer Lionel Vincent told AFP.
Ghosn has an unusually high profile for a foreign executive in Japan and was credited with turning around the struggling car giant Nissan and forging a three-way alliance with French manufacturer Renault and fellow Japanese firm Mitsubishi Motors.