Nissan chief executive resigns amid expanded Ghosn investigation

One of Nissan Motor's top executives has resigned, which has further affected the management team of the Japanese automaker by expanding an investigation into President Carlos Ghosn's alleged financial misconduct.

José Muñoz, considered a close ally of Ghosn and a possible successor to lead the partnership between Nissan and France's Renault, had been a "person of interest" in expanding Nissan's internal research.

The 53-year-old, who was Nissan's director of performance and head of its operations in China, made the announcement in a LinkedIn post on Friday. In a statement, Nissan said Muñoz had "chosen to resign" from the company, effective immediately. He refused to offer details.

It becomes the last executive discharge since Nissan in November dismissed Ghosn as president and fired the representative director Greg Kelly.

The resignation represents another blow to the Japanese automaker, which is grappling with the scandal at a time when it is struggling to shore up profitability in the United States and expand aggressively in China.

Reuters had previously reported on Friday that the Japanese automaker was studying the decisions made in the United States by Muñoz, who ran Nissan's North American operations from 2016 until 2018.

"Unfortunately, Nissan is currently involved in issues that they have and will continue to divert their focus," Muñoz said in his publication.

"As I have made it clear repeatedly and recently to the company, I hope to continue helping Nissan in its investigations."

The people who had knowledge of the subject said that Muñoz, who had been discharged the previous month, had not cooperated with the internal investigation.

Ghosn, who was once the most celebrated executives in the auto industry and the anchor of Nissan's alliance with Renault, remains in custody at a Tokyo detention center since his initial arrest in late November.

Ghosn has been charged with two counts of under-reporting his income and aggravated the breach of trust by temporarily shifting the personal investment losses of 1.85 billion yen ($ 17 million) to Nissan.

The scandal has sparked shock waves through the auto industry and has increased tensions between Nissan and Renault, where Ghosn remains the president and CEO.

Muñoz joined the automaker in 2004 in Europe and led its important expansion in North America after the global financial crisis. Since then, Nissan has managed to increase its market share in the United States and has recorded record sales.

Earlier this year, Nissan chose Muñoz to oversee its operations in China, where it plans to increase sales in the coming years.

Since then, the world's largest automotive market has shown signs of slowing, which has led the automaker to reduce local production plans in the coming months.

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