BEIJING / NEW YORK – Nissan Motor Co. Ltd has extended its investigation into ex-president Carlos Ghosn to operations that have taken place in the United States, India and Latin America, three people informed the investigation ,
In one aspect of their internal investigation, corporate investigators are examining Jose Munoz's decisions in the United States, which led Nissan's North American operations from 2014 to 2018. Munoz resigned from the company on Friday, less than a week after the company announced that he had been on leave for the investigation.
Munoz, Nissan's Chief Performance Officer, resigned with immediate effect, according to a post on his LinkedIn page and a company spokesman. The 53-year-old reported directly to CEO Hiroto Saikawa and was responsible for Nissan's overall results and strategy.
"As the classic car car managers say, I really enjoy moving the metal and have always thought about it I'm a man of action. It has become clear that the best way to continue doing both is to explore new opportunities, "Munoz wrote on LinkedIn.
He had planned to ship the new" Leaf "electric vehicle from Nissan at CES in Las Vegas His performance was abruptly halted, however, and the company soon announced his departure.
Nissan said this month that Munoz, widely held in the industry as close to Ghosn, was on leave to "support the company "By focusing on specific tasks that arise from recent events."
Munoz does not cooperate with investigators, said two of the persons with knowledge of the probe, both of whom describe his actions as "stonewalling."
One of the sources described Munoz as a "person of interest" in the investigation, adding that it was not clear whether he would be charged with misconduct.
Munoz did not respond to comment requests. The persons with knowledge of the probe spoke under the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter. A lawyer from Ghosn, Motonari Otsuru, said in an email message, "I'm not aware of that."
Some of the questions Munoz poses relate to franchise rights of traders, one source said. Other issues relate to contracts with parts suppliers and service providers approved by Munoz when he headed Nissan's US operations, another source said.
The sources said the findings were part of the investigation by Ghosn in the US market to be shared with prosecutors. The prosecutors in Tokyo declined to comment. Nissan said his internal investigation has revealed "substantial and convincing evidence of misconduct" by Ghosn and its scope is expanding.
Ghosn, once one of the most famous executives in the auto industry and the anchor of Nissan's alliance with the French Renault SA, was charged with submitting his income. On Friday, he was also charged with a serious breach of trust that was accused of shifting personal losses of ¥ 1
In his first public appearance since his arrest on November 19, Ghosn declared his innocence in court on Tuesday. He said he never received undisclosed compensation, and Nissan had suffered no losses as a result of the temporary transfer of a personal foreign exchange contract.
The transfer was a temporary measure to prevent him from signing his resignation and using his retirement funds as collateral, Ghosn said.
Sources familiar with the matter also said that Nissan's investigators are reviewing other dealer franchise decisions in several countries where Ghosn participated in the decision-making process to determine if there is a misconduct. In particular, the automaker's investigators are investigating Ghosn's role in what Nissan insiders described as a surprise decision in 2008 to choose a company Hover Automotive India Pvt. Ltd. (HAI) as Nissan's partner for marketing, sales, after-sales service and dealer development in India.
Another company, TVS, was personally hired as Ghosn after intense research by Nissan management in India. At the last minute they intervened for HAI, four Nissan insiders said. She added that HAI became Nissan's exclusive national distribution company in India in 2012, though it was relatively inexperienced in selling vehicles to dealers.
Reporters could not find a representative for HAI, which according to the Indian Registrars of Companies was dissolved last September. TVS did not respond to a request for comment.
The investigation also looks at what payments for Ghosn's bodyguard services in Brazil appear as oversized payments, says one source.
Ghosn's lawyer, Otsuru, did not respond to requests for comment on the extension of Nissan's probe to business in India and Brazil. A US representative for Ghosn declined to comment.
According to one source, Nissan also audits at some of the Middle East's distribution partners, including Al-Dahana of Saudi Arabia, which owns half of a joint venture called Nissan Gulf, and the other half owns a wholly owned Nissan Motor ,
Al-Dahana, a marketing and dealer development company, is majority owned by Khaled Al-Juffali, vice chairman of one of the largest conglomerates in Saudi Arabia. According to reports, Al-Juffali is the person who, according to the prosecutors, has arranged a letter of credit for Ghosn on his foreign exchange contract. Thereafter, a company that owned Al-Juffali received four payments for a total of $ 14.7 million.
Ghosn and The Khaled Juffali Company has claimed that the payments were for legitimate business purposes. When a representative of Khaled Juffali Co. was asked about his test, he said he stood by his previous statement.
Another Nissan CEO, Arun Bajaj, senior vice president of human resources and talent development manager of Nissan's alliance with Renault and Mitsubishi Motors Corp. was also on leave to "assist the company by focusing on specific tasks arising from recent events."
Bajaj is questioned and cooperates with both Nissan's internal investigators and prosecutors who said sources and added that they expect him to work again soon. It was not immediately clear what the questions were about. Bajaj did not respond to a request for comment.
It is unlikely that Ghosn will be released on bail and is expected to remain in detention throughout the trial, as is often the case in Japan's criminal system. Ghosn's trial can not begin for another six months, he added.