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Plea deal talks with Nissan executives over Ghosn charges began month prior to his arrest

JIJI

Tokyo prosecutors and Nissan Motor Co. executives began negotiations on plea-bargaining deals in connection to charges against Carlos Ghosn, former chairman of the automaker, in October, informed sources said Saturday.

Ghosn, 65, was arrested on Nov. 19, a few weeks after the Nissan executives agreed to provide prosecutors with information about his alleged financial misconduct.

Part of the evidence that the prosecutors have disclosed to Ghosn’s defense team, in accordance with pretrial procedures, is believed to contain testimony by the executives, which the defense side is analyzing in preparation for the trial.

Nissan opened a full-fledged internal investigation into Ghosn’s alleged misconduct in June after a whistleblower was purported to have come forward, sources familiar with the situation said.

A non-Japanese Nissan executive close to Ghosn and a former chief of the automaker’s secretaries’ office, who is Japanese, started providing information about Ghosn’s alleged wrongdoing during the in-house investigation.

During the internal probe, the executives hinted at their involvement in Ghosn’s alleged underreporting of his executive pay and fraudulent purchases of overseas real estate using company funds.

The executives told in-house investigators that they would disclose further details to the prosecutors if they could secure a plea deal, the sources said.

In plea negotiations, the prosecutors agreed not to indict the executives in exchange for their cooperation in the investigation.

Ghosn was released on bail on Wednesday after 108 days in detention. He was indicted for the underreporting of his income.

The sources said the plea deals also covered Ghosn’s allegedly fraudulent purchases of overseas real estate. But the prosecutors have yet to make a case against the matter due to a lack of evidence, they said.

Meanwhile, Nissan, Renault SA and Mitsubishi Motors Corp. plan to form a new organization to lead their alliance in an effort to avoid concentrating power in the hands of one executive. It will take over the functions of the former alliance board.

Informed sources said Sunday that the new body, which will be attended by top executives, such as Renault Chairman Jean-Dominique Senard, Nissan President and Chief Executive Officer Hiroto Saikawa and Mitsubishi Chairman and CEO Osamu Masuko, is expected to deal with a broad range of issues, from parts-purchasing and research and development to ways to strengthen the alliance.

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