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French prosecutors open inquiry into Carlos Ghosn's lavish Versailles wedding party, source says

AFP-JIJI

French prosecutors have begun an inquiry into the lavish wedding party at the Palace of Versailles for former Renault and Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn, part of which was billed to the French automaker, a legal source said.

Renault SA disclosed last month that the chateau had waived the usual €50,000 (¥6.3 million) rental fee for the October 2016 party under a sponsorship fee signed a few months earlier.

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.

Renault began sifting through Ghosn’s years at the helm after his shocking arrest in Tokyo last November on charges of underreporting billions of yen in salary as head of Nissan Motor Co., Renault’s alliance partner.

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

Ghosn and his second wife, Carole, threw a Marie Antoinette-themed dinner and party at the former royal residence at Versailles, 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 (¥288.516 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, or around €575,000 (¥72 million), it said.

Ghosn’s lawyer in France, Jean-Yves Le Borgne, said the executive “stands ready” to repay the money, saying his client was “not aware he owed it because he had not been billed.

“He thought it was free,” Le Borgne said.

Ghosn was released from Tokyo Detention House last week after more than 100 days in custody, following an unusual court decision allowing him to post bail of ¥1 billion.

The executive, who turned 65 over the weekend, has strongly denied the charges of financial misdeeds.

But he has been stripped of his chairmanships at Nissan and fellow alliance partner Mitsubishi Motors Corp., and removed as CEO of Renault, while awaiting trial.