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Nissan CEO says he hopes Renault will also decide to oust Ghosn

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Mr Saikawa says the theory that Nissan's probe was a ruse to overthrow Ghosn or push France out of the alliance is "absurd".

Paris

NISSAN Motor Co chief executive officer Hiroto Saikawa said French partner Renault SA should reach the same conclusion as the Japanese carmaker and oust chairman Carlos Ghosn if and when it gains access to all the relevant information.

A probe into Ghosn conducted by Nissan, which contributed to his arrest in Japan almost two months ago, was shared with Renault's legal team but not the board, he said in an interview with French daily Les Echos published Monday.

"All I wish for is that Renault board members would have access to the full file," said Mr Saikawa. "I think that when it will be the case, they'll draw the same conclusion as us."

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Ghosn was arrested on Nov 19 for alleged financial crimes and could remain in jail for months. Nissan and Mitsubishi Corp, another partner, have ousted him as chairman, but Renault has cited the presumption of innocence to keep him on as CEO and chairman for now.

Renault's board counts representatives of unions and the French government - Renault's most influential shareholder - among its members. Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said on Monday that France will only seek a permanent management change if Ghosn can no longer perform his duties, despite the fact that he is in prison.

Nissan's investigation into allegations that Ghosn understated his compensation and temporarily transferred personal trading losses to the company suggested that there were intentional manipulations and concealment, Mr Saikawa said.

The Japanese CEO also brushed off speculation that the probe was a ruse to overthrow Ghosn or push France out of the alliance, a theory he called "absurd".

Changing the two carmakers' cross-shareholding isn't a priority, and neither is finding a new chairman for the Japanese company, according the CEO, who called the tie-up between the automakers "crucial". Mitsubishi joined the Renault-Nissan alliance in 2016.

Nissan owns 15 per cent of Renault with no voting rights, while Renault owns 43 per cent of Nissan. The arrest of its leader has thrown into doubt the future of the Franco-Japanese alliance, which Ghosn had presented as a balanced partnership, but where Nissan sells more cars and generates more profit.

Mr Saikawa, a former Ghosn protege, has had harsh words for the detained boss since his arrest, yet described him as "a remarkable leader" to Les Echos.

Nissan was rescued by Renault from near-bankruptcy in 1999, and returned to profit under Ghosn's leaderhsip.

"I'm very grateful for the work he has done in the past 20 years at Nissan," Mr Saikawa said. BLOOMBERG