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$15 million transfer to Nissan's Oman sales agent detailed in email to Ghosn aide

Former Nissan Motor Co. Chairman Carlos Ghosn (Mainichi)

TOKYO -- An executive of Nissan Motor Co.'s sales agent in Oman sent an email to a close aide to the auto giant's former chairman Carlos Ghosn detailing an allegedly illegal remittance from a Nissan subsidiary, sources close to the matter said.

The Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office has confirmed the content of the email and apparently views it as important evidence that Ghosn was aware of the illicit remittance to the Oman agent. The former chairman of Nissan, France's Renault SA, and Mitsubishi Motors Corp. was slapped with his fourth arrest warrant and taken back into custody early on April 4 over the alleged payment. The prosecutors' office's special investigation unit also searched Ghosn's residence in Tokyo.

The latest arrest warrant accuses Ghosn of having Nissan Middle East FZE, its United Arab Emirates subsidiary, remit $15 million to its Omani sales agent SBA between December 2015 and July 2018, $5 million (some 563 million yen) of which was then transferred to GFI, an investment company Ghosn effectively owns in Lebanon.

The former Nissan chairman has apparently denied the allegations.

Prosecutors seized a personal computer from Ghosn's home in Beirut, Lebanon, in 2018. The PC contained an email detailing the remittance to a Ghosn aide from an Indian man serving as both an SBA executive and CEO of GFI. SBA is owned by Suhail Bahwan, a longtime acquaintance of the ex-Nissan chairman, according to people familiar with the matter.

Nissan funds remitted to GFI, which is a dummy company, were subsequently funneled to a company held under the name of Ghosn's wife and others, and there are suspicions that part of the money was used to buy a pleasure boat used by the Ghosn family.

The Tokyo prosecutors' special investigation unit is poised to clarify how the allegedly misappropriated money has been used.

Ghosn was held at the Tokyo Detention House for 108 days after his initial arrest. He was released on bail on March 6 this year after being hit with two more arrest warrants.

(Japanese original by Kenji Tatsumi, Kazuhiro Toyama and Suyon Kim, City News Department)

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