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Ghosn hit with more charges as Renault audit finds no fraud

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Carlos Ghosn was hit with a third set of charges on Friday. File picture: Philippe Wojazer / Reuters.

Tokyo prosecutors on Friday filed two new charges of financial misconduct against former Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn, meaning the auto tycoon is unlikely to be leaving his jail cell soon.

Lawyers for the former jet-setting executive immediately said they would file a bail application, but have acknowledged that he will probably be detained until a trial.

Ghosn denies any wrongdoing and argued in a dramatic first court appearance on Tuesday that he has been "wrongly accused and unfairly detained."

He was already facing a first charge for allegedly under-reporting his compensation over five years to the tune of five billion yen (R644m) in official documents to shareholders.

The second charge against him alleges that the under-reporting continued for another three years.

The third charge, for aggravated breach of trust, involves a complex alleged scheme under which Ghosn is said to have tried to transfer losses on foreign exchange contracts to Nissan's books.

It also alleges that he used company funds to repay a Saudi acquaintance who put up collateral for the contracts.

Renault audit finds no fraud yet

Meanwhile the Renault board on Thursday said that an ongoing audit into executive pay had found no sign of fraud in the last two years.

Directors gave no hint in their statement of any deliberations into Ghosn's future at Renault.

Renault's board said an independent review had looked into the compensation of the group's executive committee during the financial years 2017 and 2018 "and has concluded that it is both in compliance with applicable laws and free from any fraud".

But the board statement added that the audit would continue, with previous years scrutinised as it progresses.

French daily Le Figaro reported on Thursday that the board meeting was one of several informal gatherings held regularly since Ghosn's arrest to discuss developments in the case.

Nissan said earlier that its board had also met on Thursday, when directors had received "an updated report" on its own investigations into Ghosn's alleged misconduct.

Nissan last weekend put two executives close to Ghosn on leave of absence, suggesting that the internal investigation into the alleged misconduct could be spreading.

Nissan as well as Mitsubishi, the third alliance partner, have removed Ghosn as chairman, but Renault has kept him on while appointing a deputy CEO to ensure day-to-day management.

New revelation

Pressure on Ghosn rose further on Thursday after French daily Liberation reported that he had not been paying French income taxes since 2012, after moving his fiscal residency to the Netherlands.

Both Renault and the French economy ministry declined to comment, but it was an unwelcome revelation for the head of a company in which the French state owns a 15-percent stake.

"The leader of a French company should pay his taxes in France," President Emmanuel Macron said in a speech last month.

Agence France-Presse

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