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Nissan deepens Ghosn probe amid widening suspicions

This photo taken on Nov. 22, 2018 shows Nissan Motor Co.'s global headquarters in Yokohama's Nishi Ward, south of Tokyo. (Mainichi/Hiroshi Maruyama)

TOKYO -- Nissan Motor Co. President Hiroto Saikawa said Jan. 11 that an ongoing probe into allegations of illicit activities by the automaker's former chairman, Carlos Ghosn, will be conducted with Mitsubishi Motors Corp. and Renault S.A.

The results of a joint probe by Nissan and Mitsubishi Motors on Ghosn's undisclosed remuneration of approximately 1 billion yen from Nissan-Mitsubishi B.V., a Netherlands-based company jointly run by the two Japanese automakers, are slated to be announced at an ad-hoc Mitsubishi Motors board meeting on Jan. 18. An individual close to the company disclosed, "A number of other cases in relation to the uncertain flow of money were reported."

Nissan dismissed Ghosn in November 2018 following an internal audit, with the former chairman facing allegations of underreporting his remuneration and misappropriating funds. Since then, the whole Nissan group has been investigating further allegations of illicit activities, including Ghosn's alleged money transfer to companies run by his acquaintances in the Middle East.

Prosecutors indicted Ghosn on Jan. 11 on additional charges including aggravated breach of trust, but the full picture surrounding his alleged wrongdoing has not been uncovered.

Following the latest indictment, Nissan issued a statement saying, "It's absolutely unacceptable to illicitly use a great amount of company funds." Nissan will continue to investigate if other illegitimate payments of the kind took place.

Nissan revealed at a Jan. 10 board meeting that Ghosn allegedly took some 1 billion yen in undisclosed pay last year from Nissan-Mitsubishi B.V. The meeting was held to report the interim results of Nissan's widening investigation into the murky flow of company funds.

On the evening of Jan. 11, Saikawa told reporters, "I intend to bring forward the results of the internal audits so that they can be released as early as possible." He explained that some of the investigations will be "conducted with Mitsubishi Motors and Renault S.A."

Nissan speculates that sharing information with Renault in its probe will soften the attitude of the French automaker, which has become less attached to its alliance with Nissan and Mitsubishi in the wake of the investigation. Ghosn has French nationality.

Nissan intends to make its findings public after it has a clear view of how prosecutors will proceed with their investigation. The company intends to stress that Ghosn's dismissal was legitimate.

Meanwhile, Nissan's management structure is being re-examined, with foreign executives that were close allies of Ghosn stepping down. Executive officer Jose Munoz who was in charge of Nissan's operations in China and was considered the No. 3 executive in the company, has resigned. Senior Vice President Arun Bajaj, who has been in charge of Human Resources for the Nissan-Renault alliance since 2015, is also on a leave of absence as he is a target of an internal audit.

(Japanese original by Naoya Matsumoto and Shiho Fujibuchi, Business News Department)

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