TOKYO (Reuters) – Japanese prosecutors arrested Nissan Motor Co Ltd’s (7201.T) ousted chairman Carlos Ghosn again on Friday on new allegations of making Nissan shoulder $16.6 million in personal investment losses, dashing chances he would be released on bail before Christmas.
Prosecutors also raided Ghosn’s residence in Tokyo on Friday in search of evidence, broadcaster TV Asahi reported.
The latest twist in a saga that has jolted the global auto industry and Nissan’s alliance with France’s Renault SA (RENA.PA) came a day after a Tokyo court unexpectedly rejected prosecutors’ request to extend Ghosn’s detention.
That rejection had raised the possibility that the prominent businessman could go free on bail as early as Friday.
The re-arrest, however, means he could be detained for at least another 10 days in a Tokyo jail, where he has been confined since he was arrested last month on initial allegations of financial misconduct.
The Tokyo prosecutor said the fresh arrest was based on suspicions that around October 2008, Ghosn shifted personal trades to the automaker to make it responsible for 1.85 billion yen ($16.6 million) in appraisal losses, and inflicted damage on Nissan by having it deposit a total of $14.7 million on four occasions between June 2009 and March 2012 into a related bank account.
His lawyer, Motonari Otsuru, was not available for comment. Otsuru has previously declined to return calls about the Ghosn case.
Kyodo news agency said that when the allegation that Ghosn had shifted the paper losses first surfaced in media reports late last month, Otsuru said his client had denied it.
Ghosn had considered the move but did not do so after being told by financial authorities that it would be illegal, Kyodo quoted Otsuru as saying then.
“RESTORE MY HONOUR”
Also on Friday, the Tokyo court said in a statement that the lawyer for Ghosn’s former deputy Greg Kelly, who was arrested along with Ghosn, has requested his client’s release. Kelly’s detention extension was rejected along with Ghosn’s.
The lawyer, Yoichi Kitamura, later told Reuters that Kelly was unlikely to be released before Tuesday because there was not enough time to complete procedures, including the payment of any bail that might be set.
The dramatic turn of events came hours after Ghosn, through his lawyer and quoted by Japanese public broadcaster NHK, vowed to restore his good name in court and to hold a news conference after his release.
“Things as they stand are absolutely unacceptable,” he was quoted as saying. “I want to have my position heard and restore my honor in court.”
Television camera crews had gathered outside the Tokyo jail on Friday morning in hopes of catching sight of Ghosn being released.
Ghosn was initially arrested on Nov. 19 for allegedly understating his income by about half over a five-year period from 2010. He was later re-arrested for a similar alleged crime covering the past three years.
The maximum penalty for both understating compensation and the latest accusation – aggravated breach of trust – is up to 10 years in prison and/or a fine of 10 million yen.
Nissan said after his initial arrest that it unearthed multiple instances of possible wrongdoing in an internal investigation triggered by a whistleblower.
The internal probe is ongoing, and has included allegations of diverting company funds to pay for personal expenses. Sources have told Reuters that investigators have been looking into the use of an internal “CEO Reserve” fund and the role of overseas subsidiaries in alleged financial misconduct.
The Ghosn case has put Japan’s criminal justice system under international scrutiny and sparked criticism for some of its practices, including keeping suspects in detention for long periods and prohibiting defense lawyers from being present during interrogations, which can last eight hours a day.
The case also marked a dramatic fall for the leader of the Nissan-Renault-Mitsubishi Motors Corp (7211.T) alliance who was once hailed for rescuing Nissan from the brink of bankruptcy. Nissan Chief Executive Hiroto Saikawa has since called for changes to weaken the clout of controlling shareholder Renault.
Documents seen by Reuters showed that some discussions about compensating Ghosn out of the public eye were not confined to Nissan, but also included Renault executives.
While Nissan ousted Ghosn from his role as chairman shortly after the initial arrest, Renault has so far not replaced him.
A Nissan spokesman declined to comment on the re-arrest, saying only that the internal investigation was ongoing and expanding into new areas. Renault declined to comment.
($1 = 111.2100 yen)
(This story corrects name of Kelly’s lawyer to Yoichi, not Yohei, Kitamura in the 11th paragraph)
Reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka, Ritsuko Ando, Linda Sieg and Malcolm Foster; Additional reporting by Gilles Guillaume in PARIS; Writing by Ritsuko Ando and Linda Sieg; Editing by Stephen Coates and Christopher Cushing
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Majority of Canadian workers willing to take less pay for a workplace pension plan: survey
A majority (70 per cent) of Canadians say they’re willing to forgo a higher salary in exchange for a workplace pension plan, according to a new survey for the Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan by Abacus Data.
The survey, which polled more than 2,000 Canadian adults in April, signals an opportunity for employers to build back the post-coronavirus pandemic working landscape better by expanding access to good retirement plans — whether they’re defined benefit, defined contribution or group registered retirement savings plans, says Steven McCormick, senior vice-president of plan operations at the HOOPP.
According to the survey, a secure retirement remains of greater concern for Canadians than concerns about their health, debt load and job security. McCormick says this has been a consistent worry the HOOPP has seen in survey results over the past couple of years. Nearly half (48 per cent) of respondents said they’re very concerned about having enough money in retirement, while 31 per cent were highly concerned about their personal debt load and 26 per cent cited their job security. Close to half of respondents expressed high concerns for their physical (43 per cent) and mental (40 per cent) health.
In addition, the pandemic has harmed the finances of more than half (52 per cent) of Canadians’ surveyed and it’s had a particularly disproportionate affect on the finances of younger adults. Adults aged 44 and younger said they’re twice as likely (25 per cent) to have had their finances greatly harmed, compared to those over the age of 60 (12 per cent).
Generally, younger adults tend to work in roles that may have been impacted most by the pandemic, says McCormick, whether in service industries that were shut down or frontline health care that have been busy but don’t always come with access to a pension plan. “Affordability is an issue, so I think their worries increased during this time.”
And while almost half (46 per cent) of Canadians surveyed said they’ve saved more money than they would have since the onset of the pandemic, among these respondents, over half (52 per cent) didn’t put any of their savings toward their retirement. Overall, most (63 per cent) Canadians surveyed haven’t set aside or saved anything for retirement in the past year, a five-point increase since 2019.
McCormick says this may be due to uncertainty or hesitancy about whether people’s immediate needs outweigh longer-term needs. And with 55 per cent of respondents noting they were very concerned about the cost of day-to-day living, he adds that rising prices have fuelled insecurity and worries so people are creating their own emergency funds right now.
While there’s a segment of the population who’ve saved more and, for them, the pandemic has created wealth, he doesn’t see this as a common narrative in the survey data. “If you don’t have access to a workplace pension or the opportunity to have things like automatic enrolment, the uncertainty of the time may have you holding onto money,” says McCormick. “In Ontario, we’re more optimistic about the pandemic than we were maybe a month ago, but there are still people worrying about whether there’ll be a fourth wave.”
In addition, more than two-thirds (67 per cent) of respondents said a retirement crisis is looming and 65 per cent said saving for retirement is prohibitively expensive. It’s a common and shared dream for many people in looking forward to a secure retirement, says McCormick, noting for many, making that dream a reality remains elusive.