Ghosn's wife slams Japan detention as 'draconian' in letter

Former Nissan chief who saved carmaker from bankruptcy has been denied bail and held in custody since November.

    The Tokyo Detention Centre where Ghosn has been held since November [Eugene Hoshiko/AP Photo]
    The Tokyo Detention Centre where Ghosn has been held since November [Eugene Hoshiko/AP Photo]

    The wife of Nissan's former Chairman Carlos Ghosn has written a letter to the global advocacy group Human Rights Watch criticising her husband's lengthy detention and Japan's criminal justice system as unfair and harsh.

    "My husband's is a case study in the realities of this draconian system," Carole Ghosn wrote in a nine-page letter on Monday to the Tokyo branch of the organisation, according to The Associated Press news agency.

    Ghosn was arrested on November 19 and has been charged in connection with under-reporting his income, personal investment losses and payments to a Saudi businessman.

    The car industry heavyweight, who rescued Nissan from near-bankruptcy, asserted his innocence in a Tokyo court last week. It was his first public appearance since his arrest.

    Carole Ghosn's letter describes how prosecutors interrogate prisoners without a lawyer present in an apparent effort to get a confession - conditions that are routine for suspects in Japan. Japan's system has come under fire from international human rights groups, as her letter notes.

    'Harsh conditions'

    Confined to an unheated cell, her husband has lost almost three kgs in two weeks, eating meals of mainly rice and barley, she wrote. He is denied his medication, given 30 minutes to exercise daily and is allowed to bathe two or three times a week, she said.

    Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn 'arrested for misconduct'

    "No human being should be detained under conditions so harsh that their only plausible purpose is to coerce a confession," said the letter, which cited cases in which people were held for months, but later found to be innocent.

    Tokyo Deputy Chief Prosecutor Shin Kukimoto told reporters last week that prosecutors are confident they have a case. Ghosn's lawyers have complained about the prolonged detention but their appeals have been rejected. Prosecutors say Ghosn is a flight risk and he may tamper with evidence. No trial date has been set.

    Carole Ghosn's letter defended her husband's character and his record in the car industry.

    "My husband is well known as a person of unimpeachable honour, honesty and integrity," she said in her letter.

    Ghosn's family has not been able to meet him, and so far only lawyers and embassy officials have been allowed visits.

    Dutch joint venture 

    On Sunday, French financial daily Les Echos reported on its website that Ghosn was paid 7 million euros ($8m) through a Dutch joint venture between Nissan and Mitsubishi.

    Les Echos said that Nissan and Mitsubishi in June 2017 set up joint venture Nissan Mitsubishi BV (NMBV) in the Netherlands to pay bonuses to staff and managers of the two carmakers.

    The JV's top directors were not initially supposed to receive bonuses from the unit but in February 2018 - and without the knowledge of other directors - Ghosn was hired as an employee by the unit, which made him eligible for payments, the paper reported.

    A Nissan spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request from comment.

    Reuters news agency last week reported that one of Ghosn's senior executives received an additional six-figure salary via the Dutch joint venture overseeing Renault's alliance with Nissan.

    There is nothing to suggest that the payments were illegal, but they highlight governance issues and potential conflicts of interest.

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    SOURCE: AP news agency