Ousted Nissan chief alleged to have paid Saudi businessman

Prosecutors rearrested ousted Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn last Friday, accusing him of transferring personal investment losses to the carmaker.
Prosecutors rearrested ousted Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn last Friday, accusing him of transferring personal investment losses to the carmaker.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

BEIJING • Fresh misconduct allegations brought by Tokyo prosecutors against ousted Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn centre on the use of company funds to pay a Saudi businessman who is believed to have helped him out of financial difficulties, two company sources with knowledge of the matter said.

Prosecutors arrested Ghosn for a third time last Friday, accusing him of aggravated breach of trust in transferring personal investment losses to the carmaker.

The prosecutors' statement said they believe that around October 2008, Ghosn was trying to deal with losses on paper of 1.85 billion yen (S$22.9 million) incurred on a swap contract he had with a bank which it did not name.

A person helped arrange a letter of credit for Ghosn and a company run by the person later received US$14.7 million (S$20.2 million) in Nissan funds in four instalments between 2009 and 2012, the statement said, adding the payments were made in Ghosn's and the person's interests.

"By doing so, (Ghosn) behaved in a way that breached trust, and inflicted damage on the property of Nissan," the statement said. It added that Ghosn had earlier sought to have Nissan shoulder the appraisal losses directly.

According to the Nissan sources, the person who helped Ghosn is Mr Khaled Al-Juffali, vice-chairman of one of Saudi Arabia's largest conglomerates, E.A. Juffali and Brothers, and a board member of the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority. He is also majority owner of a company called Al-Dahana, which owns half of regional joint venture Nissan Gulf. The other half is held by a wholly owned unit of Nissan Motor.

Tokyo prosecutors declined to comment.

 
 

Other media have said that Ghosn has, through a lawyer, denied that he shifted losses to Nissan and has told investigators that the four payments were for legitimate business purposes, including a reward for handling problems at Nissan dealers in Saudi Arabia.

Ghosn's rearrest - the latest twist in a saga that has jolted Nissan's alliance with France's Renault - came a day after a Tokyo court unexpectedly rejected a request from prosecutors to extend Ghosn's detention.

Unlike his previous arrests on allegations of under-reporting his compensation, which he faced together with former representative director Greg Kelly, prosecutors have levelled these latest accusations against Ghosn only.

The Nissan sources said the carmaker's investigators concluded that Ghosn was unsuccessful in his attempt to have Nissan shoulder the losses directly.

Ghosn then gained help from Mr Al-Juffali, who used his personal assets to provide collateral for a bank to issue a letter of credit that Tokyo-based Shinsei Bank had required of Ghosn, the sources said.

The four payments arranged by Ghosn were made through a Nissan internal discretionary fund to a Nissan unit, which then paid a company owned by Mr Al-Juffali, one of the sources said.

The first payment of US$3 million was made in fiscal 2009, followed by payments of US$3.6 million, US$3.9 million and US$4.2 million in the three subsequent years, the sources added.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 28, 2018, with the headline 'Ousted Nissan chief alleged to have paid Saudi businessman'. Print Edition | Subscribe