PARIS – French finance minister Bruno Le Maire on Tuesday called for a "temporary government" structure to be set up at Renault, while car sales director Carlos Ghosn is investigating.
Ghosn was arrested Monday in Japan, serving as Nissan president. The Japanese automaker announced that Ghosn would be rejected for "serious misconduct", including under-utilization of its salary and the use of company assets for its own benefit.
Ghosn, a French citizen of Lebanese origin, also serves as chairman of Mitsubishi Motors and Renault's president and chief executive officer in France. The French government controls a 15 percent stake in this company, and news from Japan seemed to catch Paris off guard.
"Carlos Ghosn is no longer in a state to lead the team," said Le Maire, speaking on France Info on Tuesday morning.
But Le Maire added that he was asking for answers, not necessarily for the resignation of Ghosn. He said the government has begun to examine Ghosn's tax activities in France as soon as Nissan's news broke in Japan, but for now "there is nothing special to mention Mr Ghosn's tax situation in France."
At the moment, Le Maire said, the French government would not ask Ghosn to leave Renault because "we have no proof" of any financial violation in France.
The council is due to convene on Tuesday night in Paris to settle into a new interim administration structure.
The news of Ghosn's devastating crisis has triggered an even more defensive reaction to Lebanon, where its legacy is a source of pride.
Foreign Minister Gibran Bashil issued a statement stating that he had instructed the Lebanese ambassador in Tokyo to follow the case and ensure that he gets fair treatment, according to the Associated Press.
Ghosn represents "a model of Lebanese success abroad, and the Lebanese Foreign Ministry will stand next to him in his judgment to make sure he gets a fair trial," Basil said.
In Japan, Ghosn's sudden fall from grace dominated the titles, with details of the accusations against him that leak to the media.
NHK, a national television broadcaster, said that Nissan had paid "huge sums" to buy and maintain luxury homes for Ghosn in Beirut, Paris, Amsterdam and Rio de Janeiro that were not justified for legitimate business reasons.
Markets have not been listed on stock markets, while Ghosn does not pay or pay rent, NHK claims, citing anonymous sources.
The Nikkei newspaper, relying on anonymous sources, claimed that about $ 18 billion had been channeled through a Dutch Nissan subsidiary to buy a condominium in Rio's dominant Copa Cabana film and a luxurious home in Beirut.
NHK also claimed that Ghosn, who was responsible for paying Nissan's top 13 executives, secretly concealed some of that money for himself.
Prosecutors have only confirmed that Ghosn, along with manager representative Greg Kelly, was arrested because he did not report about $ 44 million in Ghosn's revenue in Nissan's official securities reports filed for five years from 2011.
Nissan shares fell more than 5% in Tokyo in the evening.
"It is extremely regrettable," Foreign Minister Yoshihide Suga told reporters. "We will closely monitor developments."
Denyer reported from Yokohama, Japan.