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Ex-Nissan CEO Ghosn marks 100 days in detention; probe focuses on Oman payment

Carlos Ghosn is pictured here in a May 2016 file photo. (Mainichi/Kaho Kitayama)

TOKYO -- One hundred days into the detention of former Nissan Motor Co. Chairman Carlos Ghosn, investigators are looking into the possibility that company funds the executive sent to Oman several years ago were for the repayment of personal debts.

Ghosn has been indicted on charges of violating the Financial Instruments and Exchange Act and the Companies Act (aggravated breach of trust) by the special investigative unit of the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office.

The contents of the former Nissan chairman's aggravated breach of trust charge include the transfer of approximately 1.85 billion yen in contracts, including appraised losses, from himself to Nissan after he suffered massive losses in personal dealings with Shinsei Bank due to the effects of the global financial crisis triggered by the Lehman Brothers' collapse in 2008. He is said to have sent a Saudi businessman who served as a guarantor of credit when Ghosn transferred the contracts back to himself 14.7 million dollars (approx. 1.3 billion yen at the exchange rate at the time), between 2009 and 2012, from Nissan subsidiary Nissan Middle East, causing damage to the company.

The 1.3 billion yen sent to Ghosn's Saudi acquaintance was funded exclusively by CEO reserves set aside for use at the then-chairman's discretion. Apart from this, a source close to the case told the Mainichi Shimbun that a total of 32 million dollars (approx. 3.5 billion yen at today's exchange rate) was sent to a dealership in Oman, and a total of 15.6 million dollars (approx. 1.7 billion yen at today's exchange rate) was sent to a dealership in Lebanon through Nissan Middle East. The owners of both dealerships are said to be friends of Ghosn's.

Of the two dealerships, the one in Oman was sent money on numerous occasions from 2012 onward. Prior to that, in 2009, Ghosn had borrowed some 3 billion yen from the owner of the Oman dealership, and pledged 2.2 billion yen as additional collateral to Shinsei Bank. The Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office's special investigative unit has obtained an IOU that Ghosn is believed to have signed when he took out the loan. It appears prosecutors suspect that the money sent to Oman from the CEO reserves were for the purpose of paying back Ghosn's personal debts.

According to the aforementioned source with knowledge of the case, those involved with Nissan Middle East are saying they are telling investigators that they had been instructed by their bosses in Japan via email that then Nissan Chairman Ghosn was declaring that it was time for year-end bonuses, and that those at Nissan Middle East were tasked with devising a scenario that would provide a front for why the payments were made to dealerships in Oman and Lebanon. They are apparently saying that the payments could not have been legitimate.

(Japanese original by Kenji Tatsumi, Kasuhiro Toyama, and Kim Suyeong, City News Department)

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