Renault-Nissan audit raises 'serious questions' over Ghosn

Ousted boss of Nissan and Renault Carlos Ghosn, pictured April 3, 2019, whose case has gripped Japan and the rest of the business world, said if his trial is fair he is "not worried" (AFP Photo/Kazuhiro NOGI)

French carmaker Renault said Wednesday that a joint Renault-Nissan audit of their Dutch subsidiary RNBV had raised "serious questions" over millions of euros in expenses incurred by ousted CEO Carlos Ghosn.

"Certain expenses which have yet to be precisely quantified, but may amount to several million euros since 2010, raise serious questions as to their conformity with RNBV's corporate interest," Renault's board of directors said in a statement.

The statement said that "RNBV's internal organisation suggests serious deficiencies in terms of financial transparency and expenditure control procedures."

The board had asked Renault's management to work with Renault's alliance partner Nissan "to jointly remedy these deficiencies as soon as possible," it added.

The statement came amid reports in Japan that prosecutors there were considering bringing further charges against Ghosn, who spent more than three months in custody on charges of financial misconduct involving both his pay and Nissan's accounts.

He denies the charges.

The reports said that investigators were reportedly eyeing a possible aggravated breach of trust charge related to at least $32 million in Nissan funds transferred to a distributor in Oman in transactions that reportedly involved Amsterdam-based RNBV.

Some of the money is believed to have been used to buy a yacht allegedly used by Ghosn, 65, and his family, according to a source familiar with the matter.

The claims are the latest in a deluge of accusations involving the former head of the world's biggest-selling auto alliance, which consists of Renault, Nissan and Mitsubishi.

Ghosn, who is also being investigated over his extravagant wedding at Versailles Palace outside Paris in 2016, has called a press conference on April 11 to tell his side of the story.

- 'Ethical violations' -

The business world was stunned when Ghosn was arrested on November 19 as he stepped off his private jet at a Tokyo airport.

Nissan swiftly removed him as chairman and he was also later deposed as chairman and chief executive of Renault.

On Tuesday, Renault said some expenses incurred by Ghosn "involve questionable and concealed practices and violations of the Group's ethical principles".

These related particularly to "relationships with third parties, management of conflicts of interest, and protection of corporate assets."

Besides details relating to the Versailles wedding -- Ghosn obtained the use of the former royal palace thanks to a Renault sponsorship deal -- the company said it has also informed French authorities of "potential issues concerning payments made to one of Renault's distributors in the Middle East."

Ghosn spent more than 100 days in detention with limited access to lawyers before being released on a bail of nearly $9 million last month.