By Naomi Tajitsu
TOKYO (Reuters) – Nissan Motor Co shareholders ousted erstwhile boss Carlos Ghosn as a director on Monday, severing his last ties with the company he rescued from near-bankruptcy two decades ago and from which he is now accused of siphoning funds.
Shareholders, who had gathered for an extraordinary meeting just days after prosecutors arrested Ghosn in Tokyo again, also voted out another director, Greg Kelly, who has also been accused in the scandal. Both Ghosn and Kelly have denied the allegations against them.
Tokyo prosecutors last week took the highly unusual step of re-arresting Ghosn – who had been out on $9 million (£6.9 million) bail – returning him to the Tokyo detention centre where he had previously spent more than 100 days. Under the latest allegations, he is accused of trying to enrich himself to the tune of $5 million at the company’s expense.
Ghosn, who was first arrested in November, has been charged with under-reporting his Nissan salary for a decade, and of temporarily transferring personal financial losses to Nissan’s books. However, the new allegation is potentially more serious, as it could show that he used company funds for his own purposes.
Shareholders also voted in Renault Chairman Jean-Dominique Senard as a director, another move that was widely expected.
“Economic performance and the well-being of the people at Nissan will be for me of the highest importance,” Senard told the meeting.
“I will constantly suggest the best possible evolutions in the framework of the alliance… We want to secure the right future for Nissan.”
Nissan may claim damages against Ghosn over alleged financial misconduct, Chief Executive Hiroto Saikawa said, adding he was not yet ready to give up control of the company, as it needed to be stabilised first.
Meeting shareholders for the first time since the once-feted executive’s arrest rocked the global auto industry in November, Saikawa started the meeting by apologising for the inconvenience the scandal had caused, which was followed by a deep bow by him and a panel of Nissan executives and directors.
Ghosn’s lawyers have said his latest arrest was an attempt to muzzle him. The executive was due to speak at a news conference on April 11. Instead, a video statement from him will be shown on Tuesday, the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan said.
(Reporting by Naomi Tajitsu; Additional reporting by Maki Shiraki; Writing by Chris Gallagher and David Dolan; Editing by Christopher Cushing)