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Once-admired auto executive Carlos Ghosn’s fall from grace deepened Thursday when directors of Nissan Motor Co. voted unanimously to fire the recently jailed businessman from his post as board chairman.
Dismissed along with Ghosn was another director, Greg Kelly, whom the board accused of working with Ghosn to understate their incomes on formal declarations and use company assets for personal purposes.
An internal investigation presented to the board found that Kelly had “been determined to be the mastermind of this matter, together with” Ghosn, the company said in a statement. The board also said that Nissan’s longstanding partnership with the French automaker Renault “remains unchanged.”
While he has been fired as chairman, the company said, it will require a vote of shareholders to remove Ghosn from the board altogether.
The financial world was stunned on Monday when it was announced that Ghosn had been detained by Japanese authorities on suspicion of having failed to report millions of dollars in income. He could face up to 10 years in prison.
Ghosn also served as board chairman of Renault and another Japanese automaker, Mitsubishi. The news of his arrest drove down share prices in all three.
Nissan said this week that its internal probe of Ghosn and Kelly was prompted by a report from a whistleblower. It said the investigation showed Ghosn had underreported his income to the Tokyo Stock Exchange by more than $40 million over five years.
The Brazilian-born Ghosn, who is of Lebanese descent and a French citizen, was the rare foreign top executive in Japan.
Ghosn was sent to Nissan in the late 1990s by Renault SA of France, after it bought a controlling stake of Nissan. He is credited with rescuing Nissan from the brink of bankruptcy.
In 2016, Ghosn also took control of Mitsubishi, after Nissan bought a one-third stake in the company, following Mitsubishi’s mileage-cheating scandal.
Together, the three automakers comprise the biggest global car-making alliance, manufacturing one of every nine cars sold around the world. The three companies employ more than 470,000 people in nearly 200 countries.
Before Ghosn’s arrest, Satoru Takada, an analyst at TIW, a Tokyo-based research and consulting firm, said his detention would “rock the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance as he is the keystone of the alliance.”
(VOA’s Ken Bredemeier and Fern Robinson contributed to this story.)