Former Nissan Chairman Charged With Financial Misconduct
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
The former chairman of Nissan, Carlos Ghosn, once led the largest car manufacturing alliance in the world. He was even immortalized in a Japanese comic book as a hero. Now, in a dramatic turn, Ghosn has been charged with financial misconduct by Japanese prosecutors. As NPR's Ruth Sherlock tells us, new allegations have extended his detention in Japan.
RUTH SHERLOCK, BYLINE: Last month, Carlos Ghosn was arrested in Japan on allegations of underreporting his salary by some $44 million over five years. Today, prosecutors have added a new set of allegations against Ghosn and another Nissan executive, citing new charges of underreporting. Nissan says it's taking the charges extremely seriously. The company has fired Ghosn as chairman. Ghosn denies the charges against him. It's a long fall from grace for the man who was once credited with saving Nissan from bankruptcy.
SHERLOCK: He earned the name Le Cost Killer (ph) for the savings he made Nissan and became a celebrity in Japan. In this Japanese television show clip posted online, he arrives on set in a Nissan GT-R sports car. In one 2011 opinion poll cited by the BBC on who the Japanese would like to run their country, Ghosn came seventh, ahead of Barack Obama. Lebanese, too, have wanted Ghosn as their leader. Born in Brazil to Lebanese parents and partially raised in Lebanon, he was once tipped as a potential president, a move he allegedly dismissed because he, quote, "already had too many jobs."
HUDA BAROUDI: He was the shining star in a very dark moment for Lebanon.
SHERLOCK: Huda Baroudi is a Lebanese designer and longtime friend of Ghosn. She maintains his innocence and agrees with other supporters who see his arrests as an effort by Japan to gain more control in the alliance over France and Renault.
BAROUDI: The news of the arrest shook us all off balance, and it took time for us to realize the magnitude of the allegations, the magnitude of the whole issue. And now, 15 or 20 days down the line, we know now that he has been the sacrificial lamb.
SHERLOCK: The news of his arrest has caused outrage outside his circle of friends, too. Lebanon's interior minister, Nohad Machnouk, said in a conference that a Lebanese phoenix will not be scorched by a Japanese sun. And across the Lebanese capital, Beirut, billboards have been set up of Ghosn's face made up of pixelated images of other Lebanese. The tag line reads, we are all Carlos Ghosn. But prosecutors in Japan seem determined. The former chairman faces up to 10 years in prison if found guilty, and for now, his detention has been extended, meaning he's likely to spend Christmas in jail. Ruth Sherlock, NPR News, Beirut. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.