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Prosecutors focus on Ghosn’s ‘Oman route’

Ghosn is on trial for evasion of taxes and using company funds for personal use.

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Updated: April 4, 2019

Tokyo prosecutors are building their case against former Nissan Motor Co. Chairman Carlos Ghosn for allegedly diverting some of the automaker’s funds for personal use via an acquaintance in Oman, sources said.

The special investigation squad of the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office is coordinating with the Supreme Public Prosecutors Office, among other top agencies, on possible charges of aggravated breach of trust under Companies Law. A final decision on the matter is expected soon.

Prosecutors suspect the 65-year-old Ghosn of paying a dealership in Oman owned by his acquaintance a total of $35 million (about ¥3.9 billion at the current exchange rate) from a secret Nissan fund called “CEO reserves.”

The payments were allegedly made via Nissan Middle East, a consolidated Nissan subsidiary based in the United Arab Emirates, from around 2012 to 2018.

A senior official from India at the Oman dealership is thought to have sent about €32 million (about ¥4 billion) from a personal account at a Lebanese bank to Good Faith Investments (GFI), a Lebanon-based investment firm this person was the CEO of, in 2015-16.

Of this, at least €7.5 million (about ¥935 million) is thought to have been moved to a company run by Ghosn’s wife and possibly used to buy an Italian yacht.

In addition, some of the money sent to GFI may have been transferred to an American investment firm where Ghosn’s son is the CEO, where it became part of Ghosn’s personal investment portfolio.

Prosecutors believe these wire transfers were essentially done at Ghosn’s orders and strongly suspect some Nissan funds made their way to the former chairman via GFI.

About $100 million (about ¥11 billion) has apparently been paid out of the CEO reserves since 2009 to dealerships and other entities in five Middle Eastern countries. Prosecutors have focused their investigations on what they are calling the “Oman route.”

Ghosn has maintained that the payments to the Middle East were valid and included incentive payments for sales achievements in the various countries.

Ghosn was arrested Nov. 19 on suspicion of violating the Financial Instruments and Exchange Law for understating his executive compensation on financial statements. He was indicted by prosecutors on Dec. 10. He was rearrested two more times, resulting in a separate charge of aggravated breach of trust on Jan. 11. After spending 108 days in detention, he was released on bail March 6.

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About the Author: The Japan News is published by The Yomiuri Shimbun, which boasts the largest circulation in the world.

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