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Exclusive: Renault warns prosecutors of Oman dealer payments under Ghosn



PARIS (Reuters) – Renault SA has warned French prosecutors for payments to a Renault-Nissan business partner in Oman under former CEO Carlos Ghosn, three sources of Reuters.

FILE PHOTO: Former Nissan Motor President Carlos Ghosn sits in a car as he leaves his law office after being released on citizens of Tokyo Detention House in Tokyo, Japan, March 6, 2019. REUTERS / Issei Kato / File Photo [19659003] This follows an internal investigation by the French automaker after Ghosn & # 39; s arrest in November in Japan for suspected financial misconduct by its alliance partner Nissan Motor Co. Ltd.

Renault has created the paid millions of euros described as dealer incentives for Omani distributor Suhail Bahwan Automobiles (SBA) over five years from around 2011, said the sources informed of the results. Nissan earlier found that its own regional subsidiary made questionable payments of over $ 30 million to the SBA.

But the information for French prosecutors shows that much of the cash was then channeled to a Lebanese company controlled by Ghosn-associated companies, the sources say.

The total sum paid by Renault is in the two-digit million, a source said.

"We categorically categorize the allegations of potential poisoning in Oman," said Ghosn's French lawyer Jean-Yves Le Borgne, and commented further.

Renault spokesman Frederic Texier declined to comment while the French economic prosecutor did not respond to requests for comments and the SBA could not reach comments.

Last month's response to previous reports on Nissan payments via the SBA, a spokesman for the Ghosn family said: "Dealer's incentive payments were run by regional managers, not chief executive, and rewarded top sellers worldwide."

Ghosn awaits trial in Japan for charges that he failed to report $ 82 million in Nissan pay he had arranged to receive after retirement. He has also been accused of transferring personal investment losses to Nissan and directing $ 14.7 million in corporate funds to Saudi businessman Khaled Al-Juffali.

Initially, Renault tried to avoid being drawn into the investigation that Nissan initiated – which excluded Ghosn as chairman days after his arrest – and for weeks avoided sharing the Japanese partner's results with his own government.

But Ghosn was eventually forced to become president of Renault in January when Michelin veteran Jean-Dominique Senard was appointed chairman, and the alliance partners began an independent audit of their joint funding the following month.

FOUR JETS

Born in Brazil to Lebanese parents, Ghosn, 65, returned to Lebanon as a child and has a strong network of friends and colleagues there. A Beirut house was among several properties around the world that were purchased by Nissan for his use, as the company's investigation revealed early.

The joint revision of the Renault-Nissan BV alliance management organization has counted 1.2 million euros in Lebanese donations and other costs of questionable benefit to car manufacturers. Among the preliminary results presented to Renault directors this week, two people are familiar with the case.

The audit examines the use of four company jets financed by the Dutch-registered subsidiary and payments of about 170,000 euros annually to Carlos Abou Jaoude, Ghos's personal lawyer in Lebanon, over six years, sources say. There is no suggestion of any offense by the lawyer.

In a previous complaint filed with French prosecutors in February, Renault transferred evidence that the rental price of 50,000 euros in Ghosn's Chateau de Versailles wedding in 2016 had been improperly charged to the company.

But the alleged omanous connection can deepen Renault's exposure to the scandal discovered by its Japanese partner, who has strained their 20-year-old alliance and raises questions about the governance of the French parent company.

Cash from Ghosn's own "CEO office" budgets at Renault and Nissan moved through the regional sales departments to the SBA and on to a Lebanese intermediary, "Good Faith Investments Holding", the three people briefed on the results.

From there, it moved on to private entities, including a British Virgin Islands registered vehicle paying for a $ 15 million yacht, they said.

Renault & # 39; s results delivered to prosecutors last week also provide evidence that some of the funds were transferred to a California-based company born to Carlos Ghosn's son Anthony Ghosn, the sources say.

There was no suggestion of any misconduct by Anthony Ghosn or that he knew of the origin of the funds invested in his company, Shogun Investments LLC. The Ghosn family spokesman, who also represents Anthony, refused to comment.

Carlos Ghosn has not been accused of any offenses related to the performance of a car manufacturer on incentive payments to the SBA, the Omani partner, spokesman added.

Reporting by Laurence Frost and Gilles Guillaume; Further reporting by Norihiko Shirouzu, Emmanuel Jarry, Alexander Cornwell and Tuqa Khalid; Editing of Mark Potter, Alexander Smith and Lisa Shumaker

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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