Business / Corporate

Ex-Renault CEO Ghosn ready to pay Versailles wedding bill: lawyer

AFP-JIJI

Detained former Renault boss Carlos Ghosn “stands ready” to repay a €50,000 ($57,000) bill for his wedding party at the Palace of Versailles, which was waived under a sponsorship deal with the French carmaker, his lawyer said Friday.

Renault disclosed this week that the French chateau had waived the usual rental fee for Ghosn as part of a sponsorship deal between Versailles and Renault, signed a few months before the lavish October 2016 wedding.

Ghosn’s lawyer in France, Jean-Yves Le Borgne, said that the ousted CEO was willing to pay the fee, saying he “was not aware he owed it because he had not been billed. … (and) thought it was free.”

The waived bill could amount to the misuse of company resources, as well as tax evasion, if the benefit-in-kind was not declared to French authorities.

Ghosn’s tenure as CEO has come under the microscope since his arrest last November in Japan on charges he underreported around ¥9 billion in pay as head of Nissan.

His subsequent indictment on three charges of financial misconduct has led to renewed scrutiny of his management and lifestyle at both companies.

Ghosn, who remains in jail, and his second wife, Carole, threw a Marie Antoinette-themed dinner and party at the former royal residence, complete with entertainers in period costumes, on Oct. 8, 2016. In a statement, the Chateau de Versailles said Renault had signed a €2.3 million sponsorship deal with the palace in June 2016.

Under the terms of the deal, Renault could benefit in return from Versailles access and other services worth a maximum 25 percent of the deal, in this case around €575,000, it said. The prosecutor’s office in Nanterre, outside Paris, said that they met with Renault’s lawyers to discuss the matter Friday.

“No decision has yet been taken regarding an eventual inquiry,” a spokesperson said.

Also on Friday, both a financial daily and newsmagazine said Ghosn could be facing new scrutiny over another party at Versailles, a €600,000 gala dinner paid for by Renault in 2014.

Officially the event was to celebrate the 15th anniversary of Renault’s alliance with Nissan, the ambitious project which Ghosn forged into the world’s top-selling auto group.

But the date, March 9, actually coincided with Ghosn’s 60th birthday and not the launch of the alliance, the reports said, adding that most of the guests consisted of Ghosn’s friends and associates as opposed to Renault or Nissan executives.