Mitsubishi accuses Ghosn of taking secret $12m payment

Nissan said Carlos Ghosn entered into a personal employment contract with Nissan-Mitsubishi B.V., a company formed "with the mission of exploring and promoting synergies within the Nissan-Mitsubishi Motors partnership" without any consultation with c
Nissan said Carlos Ghosn entered into a personal employment contract with Nissan-Mitsubishi B.V., a company formed "with the mission of exploring and promoting synergies within the Nissan-Mitsubishi Motors partnership" without any consultation with current Nissan CEO Hiroto Saikawa or Mitsubishi Motors CEO Osamu Masuko.PHOTO: REUTERS

TOKYO • Mitsubishi Motors has joined Nissan in accusing Carlos Ghosn of financial wrongdoing, saying that he secretly received compensation of €7.8 million (S$12 million) from a joint venture of the two automakers.

Mr Osamu Masuko, Mitsubishi's chief executive, told reporters in Tokyo yesterday that the automaker was considering suing Ghosn, the former chairman of both Nissan and Mitsubishi.

The latest allegations come as Renault, the third automaker in the global car alliance that Ghosn ran, is preparing to cut ties with its star executive.

Ghosn has been detained in Tokyo since Nov 19 on suspicion of understating his salary for eight years, and of temporarily transferring personal investment losses to Nissan's books during the 2008 financial crisis. He has denied all charges.

Mitsubishi's findings involve a joint venture between Nissan and Mitsubishi established in 2017 in the Netherlands.

The company said Ghosn, who is listed as a director of the joint venture, drew up an employment contract that rewarded him €7.8 million in compensation.

The joint venture had been set up to distribute part of the savings generated by Nissan's 2017 acquisition of Mitsubishi to the departments at the automakers that generated the savings - a kind of incentive scheme to bring the companies closer together.

 
 
 

The joint venture's other directors - Mr Masuko and Nissan's chief executive Hiroto Saikawa - were unpaid and kept in the dark about Ghosn's compensation, according to Mitsubishi.

The company learnt about the payment only after Nissan shared the findings of its internal investigation into Ghosn, it said.

It is unclear whether Ghosn's compensation broke any laws.

The joint venture was an unincorporated subsidiary of Mitsubishi and Nissan registered in the Netherlands, meaning it is likely to be beyond the purview of Japanese financial regulators.

Nissan and Mitsubishi have removed Ghosn from his posts as chairman at the two companies, though he remains on their boards.

Nissan owns a controlling stake in Mitsubishi Motors, while Renault is Nissan's biggest shareholder.

Renault had stood by Ghosn, keeping him as chairman and chief executive even as he sat in a Tokyo jail.

But after a Tokyo court rejected his bail request on Tuesday, the French government called for new leadership at the automaker.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 19, 2019, with the headline 'Mitsubishi accuses Ghosn of taking secret $12m payment'. Print Edition | Subscribe