By Tim Kelly and Maki Shiraki
TOKYO (Reuters) – Japanese prosecutors arrested ousted Nissan Motor Co boss Carlos Ghosn for a fourth time on Thursday, on what media reports said was a new case over improper payments made by the automaker to a dealer in Oman under his watch.
The re-arrest, which national broadcaster NHK described as a highly unusual move for someone who has been released on bail, marks the latest dramatic twist in the once-feted executive’s fall from grace.
Prosecutors arrested Ghosn on suspicion of aggravated breach of trust, NHK said, after visiting his residence in Tokyo early on Thursday and asking him to submit to questioning. A silver van believed to be carrying Ghosn later left the residence, NHK said.
“My arrest this morning is outrageous and arbitrary,” Ghosn said in a statement emailed by a U.S.-based spokesman.
“It is part of another attempt by some individuals at Nissan to silence me by misleading the prosecutors. Why arrest me except to try to break me? I will not be broken. I am innocent of the groundless charges and accusations against me.”
Nissan said it could not comment on judicial decisions or processes.
Footage of the vehicle leaving the residence showed its windows covered with curtains, making it impossible to see who was riding inside. More than a dozen officials from the prosecutors’ office had arrived earlier at the residence, NHK reported.
No one was immediately available for comment at the Tokyo prosecutors’ office.
The arrest comes just a day after Ghosn pledged on Twitter that he would hold a news conference on April 11 to “tell the truth” about the allegations against him.
“After being wrongly imprisoned for 108 days, my biggest hope and wish today is for a fair trial,” Ghosn added in the emailed statement.
“I was scheduled to present my story in a press conference next week; by arresting me again, the prosecutors have denied me that opportunity, for now, but I am determined that the truth will come out. I am confident that if tried fairly, I will be vindicated.”
Ghosn was first arrested in Tokyo in November and faces charges of financial misconduct and aggravated breach of trust over allegedly failing to report around $82 million in salary and temporarily transferring personal financial losses onto Nissan’s books during the financial crisis.
Released on $9 million (£6.8 million) bail on March 6, Ghosn says he is the victim of a boardroom coup.
Ghosn’s lawyer, Junichiro Hironaka, called the latest arrest “inappropriate”.
Sources told Reuters earlier this week that Nissan partner Renault SA had alerted French prosecutors after uncovering suspect payments to a Renault-Nissan business partner in Oman while Ghosn was chief executive of the French automaker.
Ghosn’s spokesman has previously said payments of $32 million made over nine years were rewards for the Oman firm being a top Nissan dealer. Such dealer incentives were not directed by Ghosn and the funds were not used to pay any personal debt, the spokesman said.
Nissan had previously established its own regional subsidiary made questionable payments of more than $30 million to the Oman distributor, Suhail Bahwan Automobiles (SBA).
Evidence sent to French prosecutors late last week showed that much of the cash was subsequently channelled to a Lebanese company controlled by Ghosn associates, the sources said.
Reuters has not been able to reach SBA for comment on the matter.
(Additional reporting by Malcolm Foster, Naomi Tajitsu, Linda Sieg and Billy Mallard; Writing by David Dolan and Chang-Ran Kim; Editing by Stephen Coates)