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Nissan delays decision on Ghosn successor

TOKYO (Reuters) – Nissan Motor Co (7201.T) failed on Tuesday 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 said.

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 because Tokyo prosecutors plan to rearrest him on a fresh claim of understating his income, the Sankei newspaper reported earlier on Tuesday.

A three-member panel of external Nissan directors put off a decision on recommending a replacement for the jailed Ghosn.

The carmaker declined to comment.

Ghosn’s arrest to face accusations including the under-reporting of income has triggered new attempts by Nissan to weaken Renault’s control of their Franco-Japanese alliance.

Renault’s board is due to meet on Wednesday to discuss the crisis, two sources with knowledge of the matter told Reuters.

Ghosn, 64, was the architect of the alliance and one of the best known figures in the car industry.

Nissan has tasked former trade and industry official Masakazu Toyoda, retired Renault SA (RENA.PA) executive Jean-Baptiste Duzan and race car driver Keiko Ihara with the selection of a new chairman, which is to be submitted to the rest of the board at their next meeting on Dec. 17. Changes to the board must be approved by shareholders.

Ghosn has been detained in Tokyo since his Nov. 19 arrest on suspicion of conspiring with former Nissan Representative Director Greg Kelly to understate his compensation by about half of the actual 10 billion yen ($88 million), over five years from 2010. Tokyo authorities on Friday extended their detention until the maximum Dec. 10 for the alleged crime.

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 the suspects 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, the paper said.

The Tokyo prosecutors’ office declined to comment on the report.

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 Chang-Ran Kim and Maki Shiraki; Writing by William Mallard; Editing by Stephen Coates/Keith Weir

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