December 4, 2018 / 12:48 AM / 12 days ago

Nissan panel puts off selection of nominee to succeed Ghosn: source

TOKYO (Reuters) - A Nissan Motor Co (7201.T) panel on Tuesday failed to nominate a successor to Carlos Ghosn as chairman in the wake of his arrest and dismissal for alleged financial misconduct last month, a source familiar with the situation told Reuters.

FILE PHOTO - Carlos Ghosn, chairman and CEO of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance, attends the Tomorrow In Motion event on the eve of press day at the Paris Auto Show, in Paris, France, October 1, 2018. Picture taken October 1, 2018. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau

Ghosn could remain in detention until the end of the year as Tokyo prosecutors plan to rearrest him on a fresh claim of understating his income, the Sankei newspaper has reported.

Nissan has tasked a three-member panel of external directors with the selection of a new chairman. The panel includes Masakazu Toyoda - a former trade and industry official, Jean-Baptiste Duzan - a retired executive from Nissan’s French partner Renault SA (RENA.PA), and race car driver Keiko Ihara.

The panel plans to submit the name of a nominee at a board meeting on Dec. 17. Board changes must be approved by shareholders.

The panel did not discuss any particular executive as a nominee at its meeting on Tuesday, the source said, adding the selection was put off because Duzan asked for more time.

Two other people with knowledge of the matter said Renault’s board was meeting on Wednesday to discuss the leadership crisis.

Ghosn continues to chair Renault’s board, but was ousted from the position at Nissan and third alliance partner Mitsubishi Motors (7211.T) after his arrest on Nov. 19.

Some Nissan executives have long been unhappy with what they see as Renault’s outsized influence over the Japanese automaker, which dwarfs Renault in vehicle sales.

Renault holds 43 percent of Nissan, while Nissan’s 15 percent stake in its partner carries no voting rights.

DETENTION

Ghosn, the main architect of the alliance, has been detained in Tokyo since his arrest for allegedly conspiring with former Nissan Representative Director Greg Kelly to understate his income by about half of the actual 10 billion yen ($88 million), over five years from 2010.

Tokyo authorities on Friday extended Ghosn and Kelly’s detention until the maximum Dec. 10.

Citing unnamed sources, the Sankei daily said prosecutors plan to arrest Ghosn and Kelly on Dec. 10 for the same crime covering the period from 2015 to 2017, during which they allegedly understated Ghosn’s income by about 4 billion yen.

If authorities approve the maximum detention for that case, Ghosn and Kelly would remain in custody until Dec. 30, it said.

The Tokyo prosecutors’ office declined to comment.

Ghosn has been unable to respond to the allegations, which public broadcaster NHK has said he has denied. Calls to Ghosn’s lawyer, Motonari Otsuru, at his office went unanswered.

In Japan, crime suspects can be kept in custody for 10 days and that can be extended for another 10 days if a judge grants prosecutors’ request for extension. At the end of that period, prosecutors must file a formal charge or let the suspect go.

However, they can also arrest suspects for a separate crime, in which case the process starts over again. This process can be repeated, sometimes keeping suspects detained for months without formal charges and without bail.

Reporting by Ritsuko Ando, Maki Shiraki, Chang-Ran Kim in TOKYO, Laurence Frost in PARIS; Writing by William Mallard; Editing by Stephen Coates, Keith Weir and Himani Sarkar

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