Nissan and Mitsubishi have accused their former chairman, Carlos Ghosn, of receiving €7.8m (£6.9m) in “improper payments” from a joint venture between the Japanese carmakers without consulting other board members.
The companies said they would try to recover the money from Ghosn, alleging the payments amounted to “misconduct”.
The new allegations add to the legal difficulties faced by Ghosn. He was formerly the chairman of the two companies, but was quickly ousted from both following his arrest by Japanese authorities in November on two charges of underreporting his income to regulators.
He remains in detention in Tokyo, with a third charge alleging he transferred personal investment losses to Nissan and used company funds to make payments to a Saudi business associate.
Nissan and Mitsubishi said in a joint statement that their investigations into Ghosn’s conduct found he “received improper payments from Nissan-Mitsubishi B.V. (NMBV)”.
Ghosn was a director of the Netherlands-based joint venture, established in June 2017 to find ways of cutting costs and sharing operations. The carmakers said Ghosn “entered into a personal employment contract” with the company “without any discussion with the other board members, Nissan chief executive, Hiroto Saikawa, and Mitsubishi Motors chief executive ,Osamu Masuko, to improperly receive the payments”.
Saikawa and Masuko did not receive any compensation or other payments from NMBV, the carmakers said.
They also allege that Ghosn and another Nissan executive who was arrested in Japan, Greg Kelly, explored “paying undisclosed compensation” to the former shortly after he spearheaded the addition of struggling Mitsubishi to the three-way carmaking alliance between Nissan, Mitsubishi and France’s Renault.
The latest allegations will heighten pressure on Renault to remove Ghosn as its chief executive. Renault has repeatedly said it has found no evidence of wrongdoing, although its investigations are ongoing and it has reportedly come under pressure from the French government, a major shareholder, to replace him.
While Renault has so far remained committed to the alliance, it has now been without its chief executive for almost two months. Thierry Bolloré has been running the carmaker in Ghosn’s absence.
The arrest has also shone a spotlight on Japan’s unorthodox prosecution processes, in which new charges can be added, extending the detention of suspects.
Ghosn has denied all financial misconduct.