when the boss by divine right returns to the meeting of his court in Versailles – Liberation

when the boss by divine right returns to the meeting of his court in Versailles – Liberation

The video has since been removed from YouTube, where mysterious hands were responsible for broadcasting it at the time of the car tycoon’s arrest. But the images of the sumptuous party given by Carlos Ghosn in the salons and gardens of the Palace of Versailles, on March 9, 2014, have remained etched in our memories. Under the gold of the Galerie des Batailles crowded extras in period costume, halberdiers and ushers in livery, musicians recreating the atmosphere of the court of Louis XIV to brighten up a gala dinner served in the finest of dishes. At the end of the feast, fireworks were even fired in the palace gardens. But the king of the evening was none other than the boss of Renault-Nissan, who could be seen welcoming his guests from the top of the grand staircase.

Paid 533,434 euros by the automobile alliance, the party was held on the day of his sixtieth birthday. The first elements of the investigation opened in Japan after the arrest of Ghosn, in November 2018, suggested that the guests were mainly friends of the then CEO. Today, investigators from the Central Office for the Fight against Corruption and Financial and Tax Offences, tasked with the investigation by Judge Serge Tournaire at the Nanterre court, have refined the investigations. And to read the hearing conducted in Lebanon on June 2 and 3, consulted by Release, the judge considers in any case that the deposed CEO would have supported the automotive group “personal expenses”, in the forefront of which the feast of March 9, 2014.

Serge Tournaire points out to Carlos Ghosn that among the 154 guests were “95 relatives and friends” and “25 politicians who would be friends and relatives”. And only “3 employees” of Renault and 24 group distributors around the world, as well as 6 journalists (not to mention a person “unidentified”, as a mystery guest). The magistrate notes that none of the members of the board of the Alliance was informed of the event, that no senior executive was invited. He noted that on Instagram, “a large number of members” of the Ghosn family had described the evening as “family meeting”

“The symbol of the genius of France”

For the first time, Carlos Ghosn explains himself in any case before a judge on the suspicions of abuse of corporate assets of which he is the subject following this sumptuous agape. In January 2020, during a major press conference held in Beirut, a few days after his escape from Japan, he justified the choice of Versailles for the official celebration of the anniversary of the Renault-Nissan alliance. Versailles is “prestigious”, it’s the “symbol of the genius of France. It is the symbol of openness to the world,” he had hammered. Before insuring: “If you invite a Frenchman to Versailles, he won’t come. If you invite an American, a Chinese, a Japanese, to Versailles, he will come running!”

Well that was not the case, to discover the surprising answers given by the former car tycoon to the judge. Why did so many of his friends attend the party? Just because “last minute cancellations” were going to leave seats empty, and that absent guests had to be replaced at short notice. The “Chinese officials” who helped introduce Nissan to China, far from coming “while running”, shunned the event, as well as the Russians, against whom “there had been sanctions measures”. “We had massive withdrawals from Russian guests,” Ghosn says.

“Everything had been prepaid. Mr. Ducasse did not care how many guests he had, he had set his budget at 200 people, he continues. Arriving at a reception for 200 people with empty chairs would have had a bad effect, it was necessary to invite people at the last minute but whose presence was less justified.

Faced with these new explanations, the judge was surprised: “On the aspect of withdrawals, is this documented?” The former CEO promises to find the documents and to question whom it may concern. He assures that “despite the withdrawals, two thirds of the guests were strictly professional”. On the choice of the date, which fell exactly on the day of his sixtieth birthday, while that of the alliance should have been celebrated on March 27, he resumes his already well-established arguments: “The castle was not available on March 27.” The date the“bored” because of his own birthday, assures Ghosn, who repeats, as he has already done, that he organized a dinner the next day at the restaurant Monsieur Bleu, in the 16th arrondissement of Paris, in the company of his family and friends. friends in order to celebrate its 60th anniversary with dignity.

The “guests of the president” housed in a palace

Carlos Ghosn in any case has a particular appetite for the Palace of Versailles. Two and a half years after the first evening, he organized there, on October 8, 2016, the 50th birthday of his wife Carole. The reception is visibly extensive. “The budget was not very economical because it is a party that I paid 230,000 euros”, indicates Carlos Ghosn to the magistrate who questions him about this reception. Only problem, this sum covers the organization of the meal, the decoration, but not the hiring of the Grand Trianon of Versailles, that is to say 50,000 euros. And for good reason, it was not billed to the Ghosn spouses but paid for by Renault. The car manufacturer had signed a sponsorship contract with the Public Establishment of the Palace of Versailles and the 50,000 euros for the cost of renting the room for Carole Ghosn’s birthday are thus deducted from this budget.

Asked about this point, the ex-CEO of Renault assures “to know nothing” and having discovered in 2019 that it was written “free room” on the invoice he received. An unconvincing justification for the judge, who then asks: “How is it that you were not alerted to the fact that this room was made available to you free of charge for an event that did not interest Renault?” The person concerned merely indicates: “I think I answered that question.” The recurring subject of Carlos Ghosn’s personal expenses, possibly borne by the company that employs him, also appears at the time of the Cannes festival, of which Renault is one of the sponsors. Beyond the traditional expenses intended to enhance the diamond brand, more than 300,000 euros were spent each year between 2014 and 2018 for “guests of the president”, transported and accommodated in one of the most luxurious palaces on the Côte d’Azur, the Eden Roc. A census of the participants in these feasts, drawn up by the audit firm Mazars, shows that half or even more of the twenty people invited each year are, here again, “personal friends or family members of the CEO”. “I didn’t think I would have such a large family,” reacts the person concerned with humor, before considering that he has only done “continue the tradition”.

The intensive use of the private plane made available by Nissan was obviously less of a tradition. The Mazars audit notes 34 trips, or 276 flight hours during which the wife or children of Carlos Ghosn are present on board. In total, the cost of these trips, carried out between 2015 and 2018, is estimated at 8.2 million euros. The main beneficiary – whose lawyers did not respond to Release – sees no cause for suspicion: “Each time I went on vacation and my children accompanied me, all the names were noted and transmitted to the Nissan secretariat.” Today, the chairman of the board of directors of Renault, Jean-Dominique Senard, travels in business class on board regular airliners.