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Nissan wants 'sustainable' Renault alliance after Carlos Ghosn

Nissan chief executive Hiroto Saikawa has told employees employees rattled by the arrest of Carlos Ghosn that the company's alliance…

Nissan chief executive Hiroto Saikawa has told employees employees rattled by the arrest of Carlos Ghosn that the company’s alliance with France’s Renault was “imbalanced” saying the concentration of power in the ousted chairman had prohibited an open dialogue.

But Mr. Saikawa told a packed hall that Nissan’s Yokohama headquarters that the company will work to make the relationship “sustainable”, in his first comments to staff since Mr Ghosn’s arrest last week.

The 30-minute speech came as Mr Ghosn prepares for a prolonged fight to clear his name, according to two people briefed on the situation, in a country where the odds are heavily stacked in favor of prosecutors.

New York based law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison has been hired to represent Mr. Ghosn. Motonari Otsuru, the former Japanese prosecutor known for overseeing the investigation of accounting fraud at the internet company Livedoor, will also represent the 64-year-old head of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance, according to people familiar with the appointment.

Mr Otsuru was not immediately available for comment.

Previous cases suggest it is highly likely Mr Ghosn will spend a minimum of 20 days under interrogation at the Tokyo Detention Center, and legal experts warn he could be there for much longer.

Mr Ghosn and Greg Kelly, another Nissan board member, were arrested and accused by prosecutors of understating Mr Ghosn’s salary by $ 44m over five years in financial statements. The Japanese carmaker said an internal investigation, sparked by a whistleblower, found that Mr Ghosn had made personal use of company funds, and identified Mr Kelly as “the mastermind” of the alleged misconduct.

Mr Ghosn was ousted as chairman of the board and Mr. Kelly was stripped of his responsibilities.

Tokyo prosecutors are also looking into whether Mr Ghosn properly reported deferred compensation he was set to receive after retirement, according to people with knowledge of the investigation.

Mr Ghosn has denied to Tokyo prosecutors that he intentionally understated his pay in financial documents, according to NHK, the Japanese Broadcaster.

Mr Ghosn and Mr Kelly could not be reached for comment. Neither has been formally charged with any crime.

Mr Saikawa told staff that he plans to meet this week with Thierry Bolloré, Renault’s chief operating officer who has been appointed deputy chief executive on a temporary basis, and Osamu Masuko, chief executive of Mitsubishi, according to a person who heard the Nissan CEO’s address.

“Even after Mr. Ghosn [is gone]we need to keep this alliance sustainable,” Mr Saikawa said, according to the person.

His comments came as Mitsubishi Motors, the alliance’s third partner, looks set to follow its Japanese peer and remove the ex-chairman from his board at a board meeting on Monday afternoon, mirroring Nissan’s move last week.

At the Time of his arrest, Mr Ghosn was planning a merger of Renault and Nissan, a move that the Japanese carmaker opposed and was looking to block.

Since its rescue by Mr Ghosn from the brink of bankruptcy in the early 2000s, Nissan has become the bigger of the two companies, with its profits contributing more than half of Renault’s 5.2 billion in net profit last year. Yet the French company has 43 percent of Nissan’s shares and voting rights, compared with the Japanese group’s 1

5 percent non-voting stake in Renault.

Legal experts say Japan’s new plea bargaining system will make it easier for prosecutors to gather evidence in a country where it already enjoys 99 percent criminal conviction rate. Det nye systemet vil bety personale at virksomheder med operationer i Japan vil ha incitament til at samarbeide med efterforskere for at undgå gebyrer eller få en reduceret sætning.

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