Nissan tries to bar Carlos Ghosn from Rio property over corruption scandal

Firm fears Brazil-born former chairman may destroy evidence if granted access

Nissan is seeking to block its former chairman Carlos Ghosn’s access to an apartment in Rio de Janeiro, citing a risk that he may remove or destroy evidence after being arrested for financial misconduct last month.

Brazil-born Ghosn has been detained in Tokyo since his arrest on suspicion of conspiring with the former Nissan director Greg Kelly of underreporting his income by about 5bn yen (£35m).

A Brazilian court has granted Ghosn access to the Nissan-owned property in the Copacabana neighbourhood, but the company said in a statement on Sunday that it was now petitioning a higher court to reverse the decision.

Ghosn has denied allegations that he used company funds to pay for his luxury lifestyle, claiming he had no intention of making false financial statements. Kelly also denies the allegations, saying Ghosn’s salaries were paid appropriately.

Ghosn, who was sacked as Nissan chairman last month, is at the centre of a corruption investigation that has stunned the business world and put in doubt one of the most successful car alliances of the last 20 years.

The scandal has also been viewed as a battle between Nissan and Renault, the French car company that Ghosn also runs and which has a controlling share in the Japanese carmaker. Renault has defied Nissan, its board retaining Ghosn as Renault chairman. Nissan is almost 60% bigger than Renault by sales, but remains the junior partner in the shareholding structure.

“Nissan has been cooperating with authorities to investigate misconduct on the part of its former chairman, and is working to prevent the destruction of any potential evidence that could occur by allowing access to residences in question,” a Nissan spokesman said.

A person close to the Tokyo prosecutors’ office told Reuters that Ghosn, Kelly and Nissan itself will be indicted as early as Monday.

“Nissan identified serious misconduct related to the reporting of Mr Ghosn’s compensation. The company has been providing information to the Japanese public prosecutors office and has been fully cooperating with its investigation. We will continue to do so,” the Nissan spokesman said.

Ghosn, 64, a Brazil-born Frenchman of Lebanese descent, was once lauded as a visionary after saving Nissan from bankruptcy in the 1990s by spearheading its alliance with Renault. Renault owns 43.4% of Nissan and Nissan owns 15% of Renault.

In 2016, Nissan took a 34% stake in Mitsubishi, which is the junior partner in the alliance. Mitsubishi sold 1m vehicles last year compared with nearly 3.8m at Renault and 5.8m at Nissan. The group employs about 450,000 people worldwide.


Simon Goodley

The GuardianTramp

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