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Plea bargain struck with Nissan associate in Ghosn probe

Carlos Ghosn

TOKYO -- Prosecutors have struck a plea bargain deal with someone linked to Nissan Motor Co. in their effort to gather information supporting their allegation against chairman Carlos Ghosn, who was arrested on suspicion of understating his salary by some 5 billion yen, according to people familiar with the arrangement.

In a plea bargain, an individual provides information on others' criminal acts to investigators in return for exemption from prosecution or lenient punishment. Although the practice is in wide use in the United States, the latest case in Japan appears to be the second of its kind following the arrangement's introduction in June 2018. The individual in the Nissan case is highly likely to have been involved in the underreporting.

According to the special investigation unit of the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office, Ghosn allegedly teamed up with Greg Kelly, Nissan representative director arrested together with him, and falsely reported to the Kanto Local Finance Bureau that the Nissan chair's total salaries were about 4.987 billion yen from fiscal 2010 through 2014, while the actual amount was about 9.998 billion yen.

It has also emerged that Ghosn used overseas houses bought by the Nissan side for his personal use free of charge.

Nissan President Hiroto Saikawa told a press conference on Nov. 19 that the company has confirmed that besides the allegations resulting in Ghosn's arrest, the chairman misused company money for personal or illicit purposes, adding that the firm is cooperating with the prosecutors on those issues. The special investigation unit is expected to pursue those problems.

Nissan will propose the dismissal of Ghosn and Kelly at a board meeting on Nov. 22. Mitsubishi Motors Corp., for which Ghosn is also the chairman, will also propose to dispel him from the executive board, and carry out an in-house probe to check if he committed similar wrongdoing.

Meanwhile, Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Hiroshige Seko told a press conference after a Cabinet meeting on Nov. 20 that he wants Nissan's upcoming third-party commission "to conduct a thorough discussion on the company's governance."

(Japanese original by Kenji Tatsumi, Kazuhiro Toyama and Kim Suyeong, City News Department, and Kenji Wada, Business News Department)

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