Japanese authorities are building a new criminal case against former Nissan Motor chairman Carlos Ghosn for under-reporting his income by $26.6 million between 2015 and 2018, Asahi Shimbun reports. Ghosn is already under arrest and investigation for conspiracy to understate his income by about 5 billion yen (US $44.3 million) from 2011 to 2014.
Thursday the board of directors, minus Ghosn, voted to remove him as chairman and Friday he hired a former prosecutor as his defense lawyer. Ghosn and Nissan Representative Director Greg Kelly, also arrested earlier this week for the same conspiracy, are in custody and have not yet issued statements, Reuters reports.
Financial crimes in Japan are punishable by up to 10 years in prison, an $89,000 fine, or both. False income reports are in a more serious category of crime than, for example, insider trading.
Ghosn was working on a merger between Nissan and Renault prior to his arrest. The auto firms already had a partnership involving owning some of each other’s stock. Top Nissan officials including CEO Hiroto Saikawa had been pulling Nissan away from the partnership, the Financial Times reports, and may use Ghosn’s removal to assert more independence. Nissan has grown more and been more profitable than Renault, but Renault owns more shares of Nissan than vice versa.
“(The next chairman) will be a Japanese chosen in a board of directors meeting held in December,” an unnamed Nissan executive told Asahi Shimbun.