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January 03, 2019


Endless interrogation smacks of US police tactics of doing the same. "Just sign this paper and you can go."

Another group sees the Japanese justice system throwing the book at a foreigner for crimes that would not rise to the level of notice for a Japanese....

Is that strictly true, though ?

I was under the impression that (setting aside the actual criminal charges, which I don't have sufficient knowledge to comment on) Ghosn's manner and level of payment would be equally unacceptable for a Japanese executive (while being fairly unexceptional in a European context - particularly as he did actually save the company and make a great deal of money for shareholders).

Interesting post, and piece, lj. I haven't had the mental bandwidth to follow the Ghosn case (or indeed much of anything else), despite hearing it mentioned often on the news, so this was a good catch-up.

The speechwriter's article tends to confirm my impression that Ghosn's transgressions were cultural rather than criminal. And it's difficult to argue with "denying anyone the right defend himself or to bail goes against all principles of natural justice...."

And there is little doubt that he would not have been able to shake up Nissan in the way he did without making numerous enemies. Not least because he demonstrated that he was right and they were wrong.

While I had heard about Ghosn being arrested, I had somehow gotten the impression that it was Nissan's taxes that he was accused of fudging. (That implying that the turnaround might have been less brilliant than advertised.) And I had missed the detail that he was being held indefinitely without a hearing.

I have no doubt that he made lots of enemies in the course of turning around Nissan. The loss of face was massive, and not only among company senior management. I could see much of the Japanese managerial class being mortified at an outsider being brought in to fix what Japanese managers could. Having him be an Arab, and not even a real European, would have made it worse. Which means that he is likely short on supporters who can work the system for him.

The system sounds particularly nasty. Why bother with a trial, of even courts, if the police can just keep detaining you forever? Confessing makes sense if it ends up actually shortening the time you are going to spend incarcerated.


I really don't want to defend the Japanese system too much, but on conceptual and theoretical level, it is not very far from the Continental criminal systems.

To take example of Finland, "bail" is an unknown concept here. Our police can arrest, on court's permission, a person for a definite time, which may be pretty long, often months. (Theoretically, even a private person could prosecute and get the court order the defendant into pre-trial detention.) The basis for detaining someone is never "making bail". The reasons for detention are mainly
1) flight risk
2) risk for investigation
3) risk for further criminality

And if the crime is serious enough, you are presumed a flight risk. However, if you are freed, you are always freed on your own recognisance. You cannot buy freedom with a bail, which I find abhorrent. The idea of a rich man being freed in a situation where a poor man would stay in jail shocks conscience.

And at least here, if your pre-trial detention is longer than the likely sentence, you are freed to await trial, and the pre-trial detention is fully credited in your sentence. If you are innocent, you will get compensated for the lost freedom.

So, what the Japanese are doing with Ghosn, is by no means unjust. If the reasons for suspicion are real and there is enough evidence, this kind of pre-trial detention would fly also in the European Court for Human Rights.

Vox has a little vid about the US bail system.


About the level of compensation, yes, he was compensated at a rate higher than Japanese execs, but lower than the US and European execs. But bringing up levels of compensation is a bit of a red herring, I think, because it is like a 'I'm shocked that there's gambling here!'

Here's 2 articlse that discuss boardroom coup aspects



I don’t get it. What does this have to do with Trump?

Worth looking at by way of comparison ?

Nigel, that's interesting and I'd completely forgotten about that. While the situations are different (Woodford as the last honest man, Ghosn as [your explanation here]) it seems clear that there is something from Japanese culture that is affecting both of these.

Cronies react badly when their crony-capitalism unravels.

it seems clear that there is something from Japanese culture that is affecting both of these.

If you lose face whenever you admit you were wrong, and if losing face is a disaster in your culture, that's a problem. And if you also lose face when someone else demonstrates you have been wrong, it's basically the same problem.

Certainly Western executives aren't fond of admitting that they were wrong. But it isn't a big loss of face for a Board to replace the CEO (thus admitting that they picked the wrong guy). And being proven wrong doesn't trash a Western executives personal social prospects for life. Or even necessarily keep him from getting another management job. All of which makes it easier, not easy but easier, to accept a corporate course correction.


Fuck the vermin.

Ghosn has resisted the pressure to confess, and will contest the charges:

Which, if nothing else, ought to ensure we find out more about the affair.

According to the story John Thullen linked to, Ghosn was asked to sign a confession written in Japanese, which Ghosn doesn't read. Ghosn's son is the only source for this claim, but I doubt the Japan Times would have printed it without question if it were inconsistent with the way the Japanese criminal justice system operates.


Some of you financial folks might be interested in Ghosn's statement. He was able to make it because of an obscure clause that allows Ghosn to hear a justification for his detention and then make a statement to the judge.

John Thullen's link fried three-day-old stinking fish of a different color.

Nigel's link is the one you want, I'd guess.

lj, that's a really blistering statement from Ghosen. If what he says is true, and he'd be crazy to lie in his position, it's a serious black eye for both those who accused him and for the Japanese police who have been dealing with him.

I am right in suspecting that the Japanese criminal justice system requires, to an extent, a certain deference to social norms from those it prosecutes, in order for it to maintain its remarkable conviction rate ?

In any event, I don’t see Ghosn playing along.

Yes, that is very true, and with the ability to have long term confinement, they have the tools to break down people to defer to them. While I'm not precisely sure about the routine that Ghosn is under as a pre-trial prisoner, this link describes the amount of control that prisons exert


as an example, I read somewhere that Ghosn, while allowed to read books, is not allowed to have pencil and paper.

This link has this list of rules

Rules absolutely define minute-to-minute existence in Japanese Prison. If you follow them to the letter, you can exist and even accumulate additional privileges. If you diverge from the long list of rules, you will be punished, often in an arbitrary and draconian fashion.

Some of the rules include:

Where and how to place each item inside the cell.
Where to write anything; only in specified notebooks which are inspected. Not on scarp of paper or inside a magazine, or face punishment.
How to sit or stand during cell inspection, and during “leisure” time: No leaning, laying down or random walking around the cell.
How to sleep. On your back or side, never the stomach. Do not cover your face while sleeping. Do not read, talk or move around during sleep time.
How to march. Moving around the prison will be done by marching. Infractions result in punishments.
When and how to speak. Strict silence is observed the majority of the time. During leisure times, talking should be done in a low voice so as not to disturb others. Utmost respect must be used when addressing guards or punishments will follow.
Where to look. Looking at a guard can result in a punishment. Looking up during meal time is punishable. Opening eyes during “reflection time” when eyes should be closed is punishable.

and the National Geographic video at the end about Japanese prisons is a good introduction.

Thanks for the reply, lj.
The link is a real eye opener.

Again, no bandwidth sufficient to read the link, but just reading the extract above is sufficient to render me completely gobsmacked. If it hadn't come from such a reliable source (lj) I'd assume it was a spoof. Jesus H Christ.

It does make the culture portrayed in Shogun more believable....

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