Nissan delays decision to select new chairman following Ghosn arrest

Tokyo prosecutors plan to arrest Carlos Ghosn on December 10 on fresh allegations, Sankei reports

Nissan governance committee said that former chairman Carlos Ghosn was deified within the company as a saviour who had redeemed it from collapse. AFP Photo
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Nissan Motor's independent board members failed at a meeting on Tuesday to pick a new chairman to succeed detained industry tycoon Carlos Ghosn, a choice that may signal the direction of the company's alliance with Renault, media reported.

A three-member panel of external Nissan directors postponed a decision on recommending a replacement for Mr Ghosn, Reuters reported.

Tokyo prosecutors plan to arrest Mr Ghosn, who has been detained in the capital since November 19, on fresh claims of understating his income that would extend his arrest until December 30, Japan's Sankei daily newspaper reported on Tuesday. The report comes amid international calls for the executive's release. Mr Ghosn who has been with the Japanese automaker for two decades has yet to be charged.

"Should we wait for Lebanese citizen Carlos Ghosn to be lynched before Lebanon reacts and officially asks Japan for release?" said a petition retweeted by Nassim Taleb the Lebanese-American scholar and author of the Black Swan. "We request that a high-level official delegation travel to Japan as soon as possible to learn about the conditions of detention of a Lebanese citizen emigrant, surplus, brilliant businessman, known for his great qualities."

The petition garnered more than 21,000 signatures as legal and accounting experts questioned the Japanese prosecutors' framing of Mr Ghosn' case. Japanese authorities on Friday extended the detention of Mr Ghosn by up to 10 days. He was arrested on November 19 in Tokyo on accusations of under-reporting his income by about half for years and misusing company funds. The 64-year old Franco-Brazilian executive of Lebanese descent has denied the allegations, according to NHK, Japan’s national broadcaster.


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Sankei newspaper said prosecutors plan to arrest  Mr Ghosn and and his aide Greg Kelly on December 10 for the same crime but for the period from 2015 to 2017, during which the suspects allegedly understated Mr Ghosn's compensation by about 4 billion yen.

If authorities approve the maximum detention for that case, Mr Ghosn and Mr Kelly would remain in custody until December 30, the paper said, citing unidentified sources.

Mr Ghosn's arrest has raised questions about the future of the alliance between Renault and Nissan that he built and oversaw. The pact gives more weight to Paris than to Tokyo, a long-running source of frustration for the Japanese.

The rest of Nissan’s board is due to vote on their choice of Mr Ghosn's successor on December 17.

Top of the list for possible successors are two executives at opposite ends of the spectrum: Nissan chief executive Hiroto Saikawa, who has spearheaded the investigation into Mr Ghosn’s financial reporting, and Toshiyuki Shiga, a former Ghosn confidante, Bloomberg reported, citing unidentified sources. Mr Saikawa is a protege of Mr Ghosn.

The independent directors have already said they will choose an existing board member as the next chairman.

Calls for Mr Ghosn's release have become more heated but under Japanese law, crime suspects can be kept in custody for 10 days that can be extended to a further 10 days if a judge approves the prosecutor's request to do. At the end of that period, prosecutors must file a formal charge or release the suspect.

Prosecutors may also arrest suspects for a separate crime, in which case the process starts over again. This process can be repeated, sometimes keeping suspects detained for months without formal charges and without bail.