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Nissan's Ghosn crisis

Renault alerts prosecutors over Ghosn-Versailles deal

Ex-chairman held his own wedding at palace four months after sponsorship signing

Carlos Ghosn and his wife Carole in Cannes, France in 2017   © Reuters

TOKYO/PARIS -- Renault has alerted French prosecutors about a questionable sponsorship deal with the historic Chateau de Versailles that included a 50,000 euros ($56,000) personal benefit to Carlos Ghosn, its former chairman and CEO.  

The French carmaker said in a statement that it had discovered, as part of an internal compliance audit that was launched last November, that the charitable donation "was allocated to Mr. Ghosn's personal benefit." 

Sources inside Renault told Nikkei that it is looking into whether the funds were used to pay for Ghosn's own wedding at Versailles' Grand Trianon palace in October 2016, four months after the sponsorship was signed. 

Sources said fees for using the Grand Trianon reach up to roughly 50,000 euros.

This marks the first time Ghosn's alleged financial misconduct has emerged inside Renault. The French automaker said in its statement that "the elements gathered so far require additional checks to be carried out," and therefore it had decided to bring the facts to the attention of the judicial authorities.

The move to involve French prosecutors steps up the pressure on Ghosn who until now faced allegations only in Japan. The Brazilian born executive, who was also chairman of Nissan, has been charged with under-reporting his compensation for several years while at the helm of the Japanese carmaker and with breach of trust.

The charges followed an internal investigation at Nissan into his use of company funds. The findings were handed to Tokyo prosecutors last year.

Ghosn has been held in a Tokyo detention center for nearly three months. Last week, speaking to Nikkei in his first interview since being detained, he claimed that he was the victim of a plot by Nissan management, rebelling against his plans to merge the company with Renault. The French company is 15% owned by the French state and holds 43.4% of the Japanese company. Ghosn denied all wrong doing during his time at the two companies.

His arrest and the spiraling list of allegations being leaked to the media have created severe tensions within the alliance that brings together Renault and Nissan into one of the world's biggest car producing partnerships.

Last month Renault appointed Jean-Dominique Senard as chairman to replace Ghosn, while Thierry Bollore -- once Ghosn's right-hand man at the French carmaker -- was named CEO.

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