Former Nissan Motor Co. Chairman Carlos Ghosn was served with a fresh arrest warrant Monday for allegedly understating his remuneration by a further 4.2 billion yen ($37.3 million) in the company's securities reports for the three years through March, raising the possibility of him remaining in custody beyond Christmas.
The arrest on the new allegation came as Tokyo prosecutors indicted Ghosn, one of his close aides and Nissan as a company on a charge of violating the financial instruments law for making misstatements in the company's releases to the market during the five years through March 2015.
"Making false disclosures in annual securities reports greatly harms the integrity of Nissan's public disclosures in the securities markets, and the company expresses its deepest regret," the Yokohama-headquartered automaker said in a statement.
Nissan also said it will strengthen its corporate governance and correct the securities reports.
Just ahead of the new developments in his alleged financial misconduct that has rocked the automotive industry, Japan's securities watchdog filed a criminal complaint against Ghosn, Greg Kelly, a former representative director of Nissan, and the company over the suspected misstatements in the five-year period.
Ghosn and Kelly were initially arrested three weeks ago on suspicion of breaching the Financial Instruments and Exchange Act by allegedly stating only about 5 billion of his 10 billion yen compensation during the five years through March 2015 in its securities reports submitted to Japanese regulators.
The fresh arrest warrants against Ghosn, who is credited with rescuing Nissan from near-bankruptcy in the 1990s, and Kelly allow prosecutors to keep them in custody at a Tokyo detention center and to interrogate them further.
The prosecutors' special investigation squad said the men are suspected of conspiring to report only about 2.9 billion yen of the former chairman's nearly 7.2 billion yen remuneration in the past three business years.
In total, the 64-year-old former boss, who holds Brazilian, French and Lebanese citizenship, is suspected of having failed to report around 9 billion yen of his pay.
The violation of the financial instruments law carries a punishment of up to 10 years in prison, a fine of up to 10 million yen, or both.
Ghosn and Kelly could face up to an additional 20 days of detention through Dec. 30, with their prolonged interrogations without the presence of lawyers sparking criticism overseas.
Monday was the last day of the two men's initial detention period, by which the prosecutors had to decide whether to indict or release them.
But Japanese law permits police or prosecutors to add further allegations with fresh warrants, meaning a suspect can be detained indefinitely if a court approves it.
While visits by people from outside the detention center are restricted, lawyers and embassy officials are allowed to meet them but not be present during interrogations.
The prosecutors pushed back on criticism that Ghosn's treatment has been unfair.
Shin Kukimoto, deputy head at the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office, said at a press conference Monday that a fresh arrest warrant was issued against Ghosn after conducting an "appropriate judicial review."
Ghosn has been visited by Brazil's consul general, Joao de Mendonca Lima Neto, four times in the last two weeks.
Ghosn seemed healthy and has neither complained about the food at the facility nor expressed displeasure at his treatment, said Mendonca, who has brought him reading materials, socks and fruit.
He said Ghosn, partial to mystery novels, is reading one by Jeffrey Archer, a former British politician who was jailed for perjury, as well as magazines like The Economist and Time.
Mendonca said he has not spoken to Ghosn about the allegations but he has relayed messages between him and his family across the plastic glass that separated them.
Ghosn and Kelly have admitted to the prosecutors that the former chairman's remuneration was not entirely stated in the reports but have claimed it was not necessary to do so because how much he would receive after his retirement had yet to be settled, according to sources with knowledge of the investigation.
The prosecutors believe the payments were fixed as they have obtained documents on his post-retirement compensation signed by Ghosn.
Nissan CEO Hiroto Saikawa was also found to have signed documents on post-retirement payments crafted by Kelly. The prosecutors have questioned Saikawa on a voluntary basis, believing he knows why and how they were created.
Ghosn has told the prosecutors he did not report the full amount because he did not want company workers to lose motivation after learning about his large pay package, according to the sources.
Ghosn's dismissal from Nissan on Nov. 22 has sparked a power struggle within one of the world's largest automaker groups among the cross-sharing alliance between Nissan, Renault SA and Mitsubishi Motors Corp. which he led.
Even though Nissan has contributed about 50 percent of the French automaker's net income in recent years, Renault owns a 43.4 percent stake in Nissan, which holds a 15 percent stake in its French peer but without voting rights and 34 percent in Mitsubishi Motors.
Nissan continues to want to review the alliance to make it more equitable, while Renault, whose biggest shareholder is the French government, prefers to maintain its influence within the Japanese automaker and protect its business interests.
The struggle for leadership is expected to continue as under the current accord between Nissan and Renault the post of CEO and chairman of the tripartite alliance is to be assumed by someone from the French automaker.