Arrest Of Nissan's Ghosn in Financial Probe Stuns Japan


Ghosn, one of the auto industry's best known leaders, was arrested on Monday after Nissan Motor Co said he had engaged in wrongdoing at the Japanese firm, including personal use of company money and under-reporting his earnings, for years.

Nissan said Ghosn's wrongdoing and Kelly's "deep involvement" were uncovered by an internal investigation conducted over the past several months following a whistleblower report.

Renault's board planned to meet Tuesday to discuss Ghosn's fate. The current head of Renault Sport Racing, Jerome Stoll, also reports directly to Ghosn in the company's hierarchy.

A second Nissan executive, Greg Kelly, was also suspected of collaborating with him.

As a result, CEO Saikawa will propose to Nissan's board of directors to "promptly remove Ghosn from his positions as chairman and representative director", at a meeting on Thursday, the company said.

Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire told France Info radio that he had ordered an inquiry into Ghosn's tax affairs immediately after learning of his arrest in Japan but that it showed up "nothing in particular" about his tax situation in France. Nissan fell another 5.5 percent, while Mitsubishi Motors Corp, the third alliance member, ended down almost 7 percent.

Statements by Le Maire, Renault and its board all echoed French preoccupations over the future of the alliance first articulated by President Emmanuel Macron within hours of Ghosn's arrest on Monday.

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Nissan chief executive Hiroto Saikawa said "too much authority was given to one person in terms of governance".

Mr Ghosn is accused of filing annual securities reports containing fake statements, which could mean up to 10 years in prison, or a fine of 10m yen, or both.

"I have to say that this is a dark side of the Ghosn era which lasted for a long time", he said, adding he was still debating whether Mr Ghosn was "a charismatic figure or a tyrant".

From 2010, Japanese firms have been required to disclose the salaries of executives who earn more than 100m yen.

The manager, who declined to be identified as he was not permitted to speak to the media, said he was also anxious Ghosn's departure could hit sales as fans of the charismatic leader abandon the company and corporate customers bound by compliance rules put orders on hold due to the scandal.

How did this come to light?

Under Japanese law, a suspect can be detained by prosecutors for up to 20 days before being charged or released.

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No further details of his alleged misconduct have been given.

Public broadcaster NHK said Nissan paid billions of yen to buy and renovate homes for Ghosn in Rio, Beirut, Paris and Amsterdam, citing unnamed sources. But some specifics were being reported by Japanese media.

Ghosn has been well-regarded for turning around Nissan, which was on the verge of bankruptcy in late 1990s, through a capital alliance with Renault.

Mr Ghosn signed a contract this year that would have run through 2022.

Nissan chief executive Mr Saikawa insisted the partnership "will not be affected by this event".

While there could be some scrutiny of the relationships between the companies, they're so intertwined now that cutting them apart would be hard, said Kelley Blue Book analyst Michelle Krebs.

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