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Ghosn probe in France intensifies with focus on Oman, Versailles

Gaspard Sebag

A French probe into former Renault SA Chairman Carlos Ghosn that was handed over to elite investigators will focus on interactions with an Oman distributor as well as spending on trips and events.

Prosecutors from Nanterre, near Paris, gave the case to investigative judges with wider probing powers. The judges will examine suspected misuse of corporate funds, aggravated breach of trust, document forgery and money laundering, according to a prosecutor’s statement Wednesday.

Former Nissan Chairman Carlos Ghosn speaks to Japanese media during an interview in Beirut, Lebanon, Friday, Jan. 10, 2020.

The accusations relate to transfers between Renault SAS and Oman car distributor Suhail Bahwan Automobiles, Nanterre prosecutors said. They also concern spending on events and trips that may have been personal. Several million euros in costs for the trips and events were covered by Dutch subsidiary Renault-Nissan BV, or RNBV.

While Ghosn’s 2016 wedding party at the Versailles palace isn’t specifically mentioned in Wednesday’s statement, the year-old probe had focused on whether the former auto executive had improperly used a Renault sponsorship deal to cover the cost of that private event.

Jean-Yves Le Borgne, a lawyer for Ghosn, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. A spokesman for Ghosn has previously denied allegations related to the Oman distributor and said the former Renault chairman would repay the marriage-related expenses.

Arrested in November 2018 in Tokyo on charges of financial misdeeds and then freed on bail, Ghosn made a dramatic escape to Lebanon in December with the help of a former Green Beret. He has denied the Japanese charges, saying they were part of a conspiracy to prevent further integration between Nissan Motor Co. and Renault.

Probes run by investigative judges can last for years before reaching a conclusion. Prosecutors typically hand over only the most complex probes to the elite teams.

In France, Ghosn is also entangled in a separate probe into fees paid to consultants by the Amsterdam-based joint venture.