He was the driving force behind one of the leading powers in the auto industry, an alliance of three separate companies that employs over 470,000 people, operates 122 plants and sold 10.6 million vehicles in 2017.
The industry’s most successful alliance
Early reaction to the news on Japan’s social media was not sympathetic to Ghosn. “Underreporting a 100,000,000 yen or so is a big deal! He shouldn’t earn that much to begin with.”
There were also some sarcastic remarks. “Way to go Tokyo Prosecutors! Why don’t you go after and arrest politicians like Shinzo Abe for corruption next?”
There is some speculation on why the Tokyo Prosecutor’s are taking what seems to be a hard-line with Ghosn. In recent years, the Tokyo District Public Prosecutor Office has had their reputation tarnished by failing to go after high-ranking politicians, bureaucrats and corporate executives. The prosecutors failed to indict the biographer of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who had been accused of rape, after a high-ranking police officer—also a friend of the Prime Minister—intervened in the investigation. In 2016, when it became apparent that Toshiba executives had engaged in accounting fraud of over 1 billion dollars, the prosecutors refused to make any indictments, despite the recommendations of Japan’s Securities Surveillance and Exchange Commission. They twice dropped the case against the executives of Tokyo Electric Power Company, who were accused of criminal negligence resulting in injury and death, after the triple nuclear meltdown in March of 2011. A prosecutorial review board overturned their decision and three top TEPCO executives are now on trial, with a civilian lawyer functioning as the prosecution.
By going after a high-profile and slightly disliked figure like Ghosn—and arresting him rather than simply indicting him—the Tokyo Prosecutors appear to be trying to varnish their diminished reputation as Japan’s elite crime-fighting agency. If Ghosn was a Japanese citizen and a well-liked Japanese executive, it seems unlikely that he would have to endure the humiliation of an actual arrest. However, in the court of public opinion, Ghosn is already guilty—of earning too much money, and possibly not being honest about it. It is also believed that his high salary earned him enmity within the company, which motivated a whistleblower to come forward with their grievances.