TOKYO: Mitsubishi Motors executives on Monday ousted Carlos Ghosn as chairman following his shock arrest for alleged financial misconduct, capping a stunning fall from grace for the tycoon credited with saving the scandal-hit Japanese firm.
The move follows Ghosn’s sacking as chairman of Nissan as he faces questioning in a Tokyo detention centre over claims he under-reported his salary to the tune of $44 million over several years.
“During today’s board meeting, it was decided that he is dismissed as chairman,” the firm said in a statement following a gathering that lasted just over an hour.
The 64-year-old Brazil-born Frenchman rode to Mitsubishi Motors’ rescue in 2016 when the firm was battered by a fuel efficiency cheating scandal, tying it to his Nissan-Renault alliance and turning its fortunes around.
Together, the three-way alliance is the world’s top-selling car company, with some 10.6 million vehicles rolling off the production line. It employs around 450,000 people worldwide.
But the future of the tie-up is now uncertain as the talismanic Ghosn was seen as the glue binding together a fractious Franco-Japanese alliance with headquarters 10,000 kilometres apart.
A seven-person Nissan board decided unanimously on Thursday to jettison the once-revered leader “based on the copious amount and compelling nature of the evidence of misconduct presented,” said a company spokesman.
Meanwhile, further claims continued to leak out in the Japanese media of Ghosn’s alleged misconduct.
Officially, prosecutors are looking into allegations that he conspired with another executive, American Greg Kelly, to understate his income by around five billion yen ($44 million) between June 2011 and June 2015.
But the Asahi Shimbun said authorities are planning to re-arrest him on charges of understating his income by a further three billion yen — for a total of $71 million — for the following three fiscal years.
Under Japanese law, suspects can face additional arrest warrants, which can result in heavier penalties. The current allegations could see Ghosn facing 10 years behind bars and/or a 10-million-yen fine.
Separately, Kyodo has reported that Nissan paid $100,000 annually since 2002 to Ghosn’s sister for a fictive “advisory” role.
And the Mainichi Shimbun reported on Monday that Ghosn used Nissan’s corporate money to pay a donation to his daughter’s university and also charged family trips to the company.
Both Ghosn and Kelly have reportedly denied the allegations.
Nissan’s current CEO Hiroto Saikawa told staff on Monday he was “shocked” at his former mentor’s alleged misconduct.
At a 45-minute meeting attended by hundreds of staff at the firm’s Yokohama HQ and broadcast internally to other sites, Saikawa stressed that the scandal should not affect day-to-day operations.
Saikawa, who rose through the Nissan ranks under Ghosn’s wing, has already spoken of his “great resentment and dismay” at the allegations and told staff he felt a “sense of powerlessness” in the current situation.
According to local media, Nissan formed a “secret” cell within the firm to look into the alleged financial misdeeds. — AFP