The Yomiuri Shimbun Former Nissan Motor Co. Chairman Carlos Ghosn had about $100 million (about ¥11 billion at the current exchange rate) paid from the automaker’s confidential funds to agents and other entities in five Middle Eastern nations between 2009 and 2017, The Yomiuri Shimbun has learned.
The special investigation squad of the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office is examining this flow of money and has requested assistance from investigative authorities in those nations. This money includes a total of $14.7 million (about ¥1.6 billion) sent from Nissan funds to Ghosn’s acquaintance in Saudi Arabia.
According to sources, the money came from confidential funds called “CEO reserves.” Ghosn apparently ordered his subordinates to establish the fund in around December 2008, when he was Nissan’s chief executive officer. Money from this fund could be disbursed at Ghosn’s discretion.
Ghosn had Nissan Middle East FZE, a Nissan consolidated subsidiary based in the United Arab Emirates, make payments from the confidential funds to entities in the five Middle Eastern nations. Of the about $100 million, $14.7 million went to Saudi Arabia, $35 million (about ¥3.9 billion) went to Oman, $20.4 million (about ¥2.2 billion) to Lebanon, $25.6 million (about ¥2.8 billion) to the UAE and $2.5 million (about ¥300 million) to Qatar. This money was sent to Ghosn’s Saudi acquaintance starting from 2009 and to the four other nations from 2011, according to the sources.
The money, which was sent to agents involved in selling Nissan vehicles and other entities in those countries, was nominally for “sales incentives” among other purposes.
A Nissan Middle East official told The Yomiuri Shimbun: “It was Nissan Middle East’s decision to make the payments for necessary expenses in accordance with their sales performance, but separately there were instructions from Ghosn to ‘pay the money.’ The objective of providing the money was unclear.”
The money remitted to Oman and Lebanon was paid to companies that separate acquaintances of Ghosn were involved in managing. The special investigation squad is examining the possibility that these expenditures had no connection to Nissan’s business operations.
In October 2008, Ghosn shifted appraisal losses worth about ¥1.85 billion arising from a private investment to Nissan. From June 2009 to March 2012, he had a total of about ¥1.6 billion sent to the Saudi acquaintance who had provided about ¥3 billion as “guarantee fees” and other purposes to help secure a credit guarantee for Ghosn’s investment. Ghosn has been rearrested on suspicion of aggravated breach of trust under the Companies Law.
The special investigation squad believes Ghosn funneled the Nissan funds to his acquaintance to reimburse him for the guarantee fees and as a token of gratitude.
Ghosn, 64, denied these allegations when he attended a hearing Tuesday at the Tokyo District Court to disclose the grounds for his detention. Ghosn said the acquaintance was appropriately compensated — an amount approved by the relevant officers at Nissan — in exchange for critical services that benefited Nissan.
According to Ghosn’s lawyer, Ghosn explained the payments made to the entities in the Middle Eastern nations were proper because the money was paid as incentives in line with their sales performance.