France opens investigation into tax evasion by Carlos Ghosn

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Automobile executive turned fugitive Carlos ghosn is under investigation in France for possible tax fraud during his last three years at the helm Renault SA and Nissan engine Co., according to a person familiar with the matter.

Ghosn and the French tax authorities have been discussing since the middle of last year whether the former chief executive should have been considered a French resident in 2016, 2017 and 2018, said the person, who asked not be named because the information is not. Public. Ghosn said in 2012 that he moved to the Netherlands and was subsequently treated as a non-resident, the person said.

The newspaper LiberationreportedMonday that a French judge allowed the authorities to seize nearly 13 million euros ($ 16 million) in assets of Ghosn and his wife, Carole, pending the outcome of the investigation. The authorities are preparing a “major” tax adjustment, according to the newspaper.

A spokeswoman for Ghosn declined to comment.

Tax investigation adds to Ghosn’s legal woes in France, where authorities are alreadyinvestigateits role in the expenses covered by Renault and the Dutch subsidiary which oversaw its alliance with Nissan. Ghosn was arrested in Tokyo two years ago and charged with financial crimes, including underreporting his compensation at Nissan. He has denied the charges and escaped to Lebanon last year.

Assets seized

The assets seized include an apartment in Paris belonging to Carole worth 5.9 million euros, half of the ownership of a house in the western suburbs of L’Etang-la-Ville and shares in Renault , according to the report, which did not specify where the information came from.

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire on Monday refused to confirm an investigation into Ghosn’s tax affairs. Although he has access to information on such investigations, Le Maire said he would not intervene.

“Whether he is on the run, in the countryside or not in the countryside, he is a French citizen and will be treated like a French citizen,” the minister said of Ghosn on France Info radio.

‘Peace of mind’

In hisdeliveredpublished last month, Ghosn said he used his Dutch residency status as a “signal of neutrality” as he led the three-company alliance which also includes Mitsubishi Motors Corp. This was also justified by the salary which was paid to him by the subsidiary Renault-Nissan BV, he writes.

In separate investigations, French authorities are investigating the former Renault chairman’s interactions with a car distributor in Oman and spending related to events and trips that may have been personal, as well as payments that Renault-Nissan BV carried out to consultants. Ghosn said last month that French criminal investigators would travel to Beirut next year to question him.

“Why should I flee French justice?” he said in a broadcast interview. “I will answer any questions that come to me. I have a clear conscience. “

Ghosn also said he would not risk traveling to France and Brazil for fear that any issues along the way could give Japanese authorities an opportunity to secure his extradition. He said he was forced to stay in Lebanon and had armed bodyguards.

More to read absolutely financial cover of Fortune:

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