Prosecutors indict Ghosn on two new charges

Regis Duvignau  File

Regis Duvignau File

Ghosn's lawyer, Motonari Otsuru, expects his client to be held until trial, which he said could begin in about six months.

A veteran judge also said that pretrial procedures, including narrowing down points of dispute, for Ghosn's case could take a year or more.

Ghosn has said that the payments to Al-Juffali through a Nissan subsidiary were proper compensation for him taking care of hard business problems in the Middle East.

Visits from lawyers, family and friends are strictly controlled by prosecutors in Japan, making it hard for suspects to establish a defense or give their side of the story to the media.

Even if bail were granted, Ghosn would not likely be released until Tuesday given that Monday is public holiday.

Renault has stuck by Ghosn since his arrest but faces pressure to find a successor as his jail time drags on and questions mount about executive payment schemes used by the carmaker and related companies.

The maximum penalty for the falsifying financial reports and breach of trust is 15 years in prison, a 10 million yen ($89,000) fine, or both.

Ghosn forged an unlikely three-way alliance between Mitsubishi Motors, Renault and Nissan and the board of French automaker Renault - of which Ghosn remains CEO - said late Thursday an ongoing audit into executive pay had found no sign of fraud in the last two years.

Ghosn's wife, Carole, painted a glum picture of her husband's state, saying she's fearful for his health and that he's been denied access to his family since the November 19 arrest in Tokyo. "We are fearful and very anxious his recovery will be complicated while he continues to endure such harsh conditions and unfair treatment", she said.

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The second charge against him alleges that the under-reporting continued for another three years. Suspects are often re-arrested on suspicion of new charges periodically to keep them in custody while prosecutors attempt to build a case, and bail is the exception more than the rule.

Nissan added that it was continuing its own internal investigation.

Nissan Chief Executive Hiroto Saikawa has denounced Ghosn, accusing him of using the company's money and assets for personal gain.

Ghosn's spectacular downfall following his arrest in November has shaken the global auto industry and strained the alliance he built between Nissan (NSANY), Renault and Mitsubishi Motors (MMTOF).

His arrest came after a months-long investigation by Nissan into his conduct, a probe that was largely kept from its French partner.

The prosecutors also indicted former Nissan Representative Director Greg Kelly and Nissan itself for the alleged misstatement of Ghosn's remuneration. Nissan later said it remained committed to the alliance.

Renault, which is the biggest shareholder in Nissan, has refrained from removing Ghosn, instead appointing interim replacements.

In a statement, Nissan said that Munoz had "elected to resign" from the company, effective immediately.

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