Ex-chairman Ghosn expected to be removed from Nissan's board

Andrew Cummings
April 10, 2019

Japanese automaker Nissan cut its final tie with former chairman Carlos Ghosn Monday, removing him from its board of directors while he awaits trial on corruption charges.

Ghosn is forbidden from fleeing or tampering with evidence, and from meeting some people, including Greg Kelly, a Nissan Motor Co. board member suspected of collaborating with Ghosn, Nissan Chief Executive Hiroto Saikawa and others who may be witnesses in the case, he said. This alliance has been strained by the numerous allegations against their shared ex-boss Ghosn, but Saikawa reemphasized Nissan's commitment to the corporate alliance at the shareholders' meeting.

He and other executives bowed deeply before the thousands of shareholders at the meeting as it opened. The first two is in connection with the claims that he deferred about US$80 million in income and covered this up in the official documents shared to the shareholders.

The third, more complex, charge is that he attempted to transfer personal losses to Nissan and paid a Saudi contact who provided collateral from company funds.

His arrest last week, the fourth since November, involved fresh allegations that $5 million sent by a Nissan Motor Co. subsidiary and meant for an Oman dealership was diverted to a company effectively controlled by Ghosn. Prosecutors can apply for an additional 10 days detention, after which they must indict or release him.

Ghosn's wife Carole Ghosn, who was with her husband in Tokyo when he was arrested last week, appealed to French President Emmanuel Macron for help.

"I am very anxious about the performance and future of Nissan", said Ghosn, widely credited with saving the Japanese firm from the brink of bankruptcy.

The prosecutors asked her to meet them for voluntary questioning as an unsworn witness, but the request was turned down, which prompted them to ask judges to question her on their behalf, the broadcaster said.

Ghosn's rearrest on Thursday came less than a month after he dramatically won bail, paying around $9 million to secure his release. He was also banned from leaving the country.

Ghosn's lawyers have called the latest arrest an attempt to muzzle him. Renault has a 43 per cent voting stake in Nissan, which has no reciprocal rights with its 15 per cent stake in its French partner. He was due to speak at a news conference this week, but instead a video statement from him will be shown on Tuesday at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan (FCCJ), the FCCJ said on its website.

Other reports in Japan say that investigators are looking into allegations that company money allegedly misused by Ghosn could have transited through a business that was run by his wife. "Of course, I have names".

It is the end, in both name and reality, of the nearly 20-year "Ghosn regime", which had lasted since the former chairman produced a V-shaped recovery of crisis-ridden Nissan in the late 1990s.

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