Nissan Motor Co. and Mitsubishi Motors Corp. said Friday their own investigation found that ousted Chairman Carlos Ghosn received about 7.82 million euros ($8.9 million) "illegally" from the two firms' overseas joint venture.
The latest allegation against the former charismatic boss of the auto alliance involves the equally owned venture called Nissan-Mitsubishi B.V. established in 2017 in the Netherlands for the aim of maximizing joint operation synergies.
The two automakers said the joint company made the payment to Ghosn, who remains in detention on charges of financial misconduct, from a pool of a 15.62 million euro service fee, which was intended to "facilitate the generation of synergies," without approval by the board of directors including Nissan CEO Hiroto Saikawa and Mitsubishi Motors CEO Osamu Masuko, they said.
The transaction was carried out in accordance with Ghosn's instructions to Nissan executives and under an employment agreement compiled by an unauthorized person at the venture, Mitsubishi Motors said.
Mitsubishi Motors launched the investigation, with the help of Nissan, following the arrest of Ghosn in November for alleged financial misconduct at Nissan. The probe did not find any other misconduct involving Ghosn at Mitsubishi Motors and its affiliate companies, it said.
Kei Umebayashi, a lawyer who led the probe at Mitsubishi Motors, told reporters that testimonies during interviews with people concerned found that Ghosn created the venture for the purpose of receiving remuneration illegally.
The lawyer said such a scheme to pay Ghosn remuneration from the joint venture could have been prepared before the capital alliance between Mitsubishi Motors and Nissan was officially formed in 2016.
He indicated that the acts could constitute corporate embezzlement, although Masuko did not comment on whether a criminal complaint would be filed.
"It's a fact that Mr. Ghosn has misused NMBV," Masuko told reporters, referring to the venture, adding his company is considering filing a damages suit against Ghosn.
Mitsubishi became the third partner in the alliance between Nissan and Renault SA in 2016, when Nissan took a stake of 34 percent. Following the partnership, Ghosn assumed the post of chairman at Mitsubishi Motors, which was reeling from a fuel data manipulation scandal at the time.
The latest findings may further pressure Renault into dismissing Ghosn as its CEO and chairman at a board meeting it is expected to convene soon.
The French government, Renault's biggest shareholder, has recently asked the automaker to choose a successor to Ghosn, who has been detained in Japan for nearly two months, at the board meeting.
The move marked a shift from its previous position that the principle of presumption of innocence must be respected. Ghosn has denied all allegations leveled against him.
Also Friday, lawyers for Ghosn requested for a second time that a Tokyo court grant bail to the 64-year-old, whose lengthened detainment has triggered criticism particularly from abroad.
The request came a day after the Tokyo District Court turned down an appeal made by the lawyers to retract an earlier denial of bail.
Ghosn was first arrested on Nov. 19 and his detention has been extended multiple times over additional allegations, all of which he denies.
Ghosn has been charged with violating the financial instruments law by understating his remuneration in Nissan's securities reports as well as for aggravated breach of trust over the transfer of derivative losses from his private asset management company to Nissan's books.
Ghosn made his first public appearance on Jan. 8 at the district court to hear an explanation for his prolonged detention, and at that time he claimed he has been "wrongly accused and unfairly detained."
His lawyers requested bail on Jan. 11, but the court rejected it four days later saying he is a flight risk and that he may destroy evidence.
Under the Japanese judicial system, a bail request can be made as many times as needed.
Ghosn's Tokyo-based chief lawyer, Motonari Otsuru, said at a press conference after his client's first public appearance that Ghosn may not be granted bail before the start of his trial, which could take place around June, due to the complexity of the case that involves documents in both Japanese and English.