BEIJING / NEW YORK – Nissan Motor Co. Ltd has expanded its investigation into outgoing President Carlos Ghosn to include reports in the United States, India and Latin America, three people said knowledge of the investigation.
In one aspect of their internal investigation, corporate investigators are examining decisions made in the United States by Jose Munoz, who led Nissan's North American operations from 2014 to 2018, people said. Munoz resigned from the company on Friday, less than a week after the company announced it would go on leave due to the probe.
Munoz, Nissan's chief performance officer, resigned immediately, according to a post on his LinkedIn page and a company spokesman. The 53-year-old had reported directly to the Hiroto Saikawa CEO and was responsible for the overall results and strategy of Nissan.
"As the auto directors say, I really like to" move the metal "and I have always considered myself a man of action It has become clear that the best way to keep doing both things are exploring new opportunities ", wrote Munoz on LinkedIn.
He was planning to introduce Nissan's new long-range Leaf electric vehicle this week at CES in Las Vegas. However, his appearance was abruptly canceled and the company announced his leave shortly thereafter.
Nissan had said this month that Munoz, widely seen in the industry as close to Ghosn, was on leave "to allow him to assist the company by focusing on special tasks arising from recent events."
Munoz he is not cooperating with the investigators, two of the people with knowledge of the probe have said, both describing his actions as "stonewalling".
One of the sources described Munoz as a "person of interest" in the probe, adding that it was unclear whether he would be accused of committing an offense.
Munoz did not respond to requests for comments. People with knowledge of the probe spoke on condition of anonymity because of the delicacy of the matter. A lawyer from Ghosn, Motonari Otsuru, said in a comment sent by email: "I'm not aware of it."
Some of the questions posed to Munoz concern franchise rights for dealers, said one of the sources. Other questions are related to contracts with parts suppliers and service providers that Munoz approved when he was at the helm of Nissan's US operations, according to another source.
Sources said the results were made as part of Ghosn's research into the US market are shared with prosecutors. Tokyo prosecutors declined to comment. Nissan said his internal investigation revealed Ghosn's "substantive and convincing evidence of misconduct" and that its scope is expanding.
Ghosn, once one of the most famous executives of the automotive industry and also of the alliance of Nissan with French Renault SA, has been accused of underestimating his revenues. Last Friday, he was also charged with aggravated breach of trust, accused of moving personal investment losses worth ¥ 1
In his first public appearance since the arrest on November 19, Ghosn declared his innocence in court Tuesday, saying he had never received compensation that had not been disclosed and that Nissan had not suffered losses due to a temporary transfer of a personal exchange contract.
The transfer was a temporary measure to prevent him from having to resign and use his pension funds as collateral, Ghosn said.
Sources familiar with the issue also said that Nissan investigators are examining other dealer franchise decisions in several countries where Ghosn took part in the decision-making process to see if there was any misconduct  In particular, the automaker's investigators are examining Ghosn's role in what Nissan's insiders described as a surprise decision in 2008 to choose a company called Hover Automotive India Pvt. Ltd. (HAI) as a partner of Nissan for marketing, sales, after-sales service and development of dealers in India.
A different company, TVS, had been deployed for the role after much research by Nissan management in India when Ghosn personally intervened at the last minute to push for HAI, they said four Nissan insiders. They add that in 2012, HAI became the exclusive national sales company of Nissan in India, despite being relatively inexperienced in the distribution of vehicles to dealers.
Reporters were unable to find a representative for the IAI, which according to the Indian Company Registry was dissolved starting in September of last year TVS did not respond to a request for comment
The probe is also looking at what appears to be outsize payments for Ghosn's bodyguard services in Brazil.
Ghosn's lawyer, Otsuru, did not respond to requests to comment on the expansion of the Nissan probe in relations in India and Brazil. A US representative for Ghosn declined to comment.
One source also said that Nissan is conducting audits of some distribution partners in the Middle East, including Al-Dahana of Saudi Arabia which holds half of a joint venture called Nissan Gulf with the other half held by a unit wholly owned by Nissan Motor.
Al-Dahana, a marketing and commercial development company, is owned by a majority of Khaled Al-Juffali, vice president of one of Saudi Arabia's largest conglomerates. Reports said that Al-Juffali is the person charged with arranging a letter of credit for Ghosn on his exchange contract, after which a company owned by Al-Juffali received four payments totaling $ 14.7 millions.
Both Ghosn and the Khaled Juffali Company claimed that the payments were for legitimate business purposes. When asked about the audit, a representative of Khaled Juffali Co. stated that the company stood out for its previous declaration.
Another Nissan executive, Arun Bajaj, senior vice president for human resources and head of talent development for the Nissan alliance with Renault and Mitsubishi Motors Corp., was also discharged to "assist the company by focusing on special tasks arising from recent events. "
Bajaj is questioned and is collaborating with Nissan's internal investigators and prosecutors, sources said, adding that they expect him to return to work soon. It was not immediately clear what it was. Bajaj has not responded to a request for comment
Ghosn is unlikely to be granted interim release and should remain in detention throughout the trial, as often happens in the Japanese criminal system, Otsuru told journalists at the beginning of the week. Ghosn's trial can not start for another six months, he added.