Ghosn case: New documents show payments to Renault exec

A police vehicle patrols in front of the Tokyo Detention House in Tokyo on January 11, 2019, where former Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn is being held. — AFP pic
A police vehicle patrols in front of the Tokyo Detention House in Tokyo on January 11, 2019, where former Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn is being held. — AFP pic

TOKYO, Jan 11 — An executive at French automaker Renault who was close to Carlos Ghosn received payments totalling nearly €500,000 on top of her salary over several years, according to documents obtained by AFP.

In a statement responding to reports about the alleged payments made to Mouna Sepehri, Renault slammed what it called a “deliberately orchestrated campaign of destabilisation”.

The allegations come after Ghosn, who heads an alliance grouping Renault, Nissan and Mitsubishi Motors, was arrested in Japan on November 19 in a shock development that unnerved the auto industry.

He faces three charges of financial misconduct, including under-reporting his salary and aggravated breach of trust. He denies any wrongdoing.

A source with knowledge of the alleged payments to Sepehri said she was “the only one” of nine directors of a Dutch holding company “to have received compensation paid directly” by the tripartite alliance.

Sepehri declined to comment to AFP about the alleged payments. But a source at Renault said executives at both the French company and Nissan had received bonuses for specific tasks.

During a meeting of the alliance’s governance committee on March 26, 2013, Ghosn and his right-hand man Greg Kelly — the only committee members present — approved the compensation for Sepehri, according to minutes obtained by AFP.

Kelly is also facing prosecution in Japan along with Ghosn, who has been fired by Nissan and Mitsubishi. Ghosn remains boss of Renault and the overall alliance.

Other documents obtained by AFP say Sepehri was paid a total of €200,000 in 2013, and then around €100,000 in each of the following years up to 2016, via the holding company in the Netherlands.

In its statement, Renault said its own investigation had found no evidence of fraud in the compensation of top executives, among them Sepehri.

Its review so far only covers payments made in 2017 and 2018. Renault said it was looking into any payments in the years prior.

Sepehri joined Renault in 1996 as a deputy general counsel, and helped Ghosn to create the Renault-Nissan alliance in 1999.

In 2011 the Iranian-born Frenchwoman became an executive vice president of Renault overseeing legal affairs, as well as public affairs and communication.

She is also secretary to Renault’s board of directors. — AFP