Former Nissan Motor Co. Chairman Carlos Ghosn allegedly diverted funds from Renault SA to a Lebanese firm he effectively controlled through an Omani distributor, in the same manner he is charged with having done at Nissan, sources with knowledge of the investigation into the matter said Tuesday.
Ghosn, 65, is suspected of channeling around 730 million yen ($6.82 million) in 2017 from Renault's pool of funds he could use at his discretion to the distributor Suhail Bahwan Automobiles LLC. Part of the money totaling 350 million yen was then moved to Good Faith Investments in Lebanon, other sources said.
At Nissan, Ghosn allegedly moved money to the Lebanese firm from "CEO reserve," investigative sources have said.
Tokyo prosecutors accuse Ghosn of having a Nissan subsidiary in the United Arab Emirates pay a total of $10 million to SBA between July 2017 and July last year, and having around $5 million of it transferred to GFI.
The Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office is expected to use the similarities with the transfer of Renault's funds called "CEO bonus" as evidence to bolster their case at the trial that Ghosn was using Nissan's company funds for his personal use, the sources said.
Hiroto Saikawa, who succeeded Ghosn as president and CEO in April 2017, was responsible for financial disbursements, but prosecutors are planning to argue that Ghosn hid his intentions when moving funds to SBA as dealer incentives, the sources said.
Junichiro Hironaka, one of Ghosn's defense lawyers, has said Ghosn argues the disbursement of money to SBA was "appropriate" and he did not have substantial control over GFI.
Ghosn, who was first arrested last November, is facing charges of aggravated breach of trust and for violating the financial instruments law. His former close aide Greg Kelly, 62, is accused of conspiring to underreport his boss's remuneration by around 9 billion yen over eight years.
Six pretrial proceedings by Dec. 25 have been planned, and the public trial is likely to start next year.
Renault has been conducting an internal investigation on Ghosn following his arrest by Japanese prosecutors.
Ghosn, credited with saving Nissan when it was teetering on the brink of bankruptcy in the late 1990s, has been stripped of his chairmanship posts at Nissan, Renault and their alliance partner Mitsubishi Motors Corp.
He has denied all allegations, saying he is the victim of a "conspiracy" by Nissan executives who felt a possible convergence or merger with Renault would threaten Nissan's autonomy.
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