Photo/IllutrationCarlos Ghosn, chairman of Nissan Motor Co., frequently stayed at this home in central Beirut. (Takashi Watanabe)

Carlos Ghosn and his cost-cutting measures were viewed as instrumental in saving Nissan Motor Co. from possible financial ruin, but a handful of company officials saw a different side to the now-arrested chairman.

A high-ranking prosecutor said very few people within Nissan were aware of the financial shenanigans revolving around Ghosn.

However, a whistle-blower around March tipped off Nissan management about questionable financial dealings involving Ghosn.

Nissan officials, including a senior vice president in charge of legal matters and compliance, confirmed a number of problems. The officials also provided information to prosecutors after entering a plea-bargaining deal, according to sources close to the investigation.

Their cooperation led to Ghosn’s arrest on Nov. 19 on suspicion of under-reporting his remuneration by about 5 billion yen ($44.2 million) over a five-year period.

One thing the Nissan officials uncovered was a string of expensive overseas homes that were paid for by Nissan subsidiaries and used by Ghosn.

In Japan, Ghosn has a pricey condominium in Tokyo’s Minato Ward.

He and his family also frequently use a three-storied home in a residential district of Beirut, where Ghosn spent his childhood.

The home is surrounded by a 6-meter-tall wall with security cameras installed at the entrance.

An individual knowledgeable about real estate in Beirut said the home is valued at about $5 million (about 560 million yen).

Several neighbors said major renovations of the home started several years ago and were only completed this summer.

The Nissan officials who cooperated with prosecutors said Ghosn used funds of the automaker’s overseas subsidiaries to pay for expensive homes not only in Beirut but also in Rio de Janeiro.

They also pointed investigators in the direction of Greg Kelly, the representative board member who was arrested on suspicion of conspiring to falsify reports about Ghosn’s pay, the sources said.

They said Kelly secretly cooked the accounting books so the payments for the overseas homes never showed up in Nissan’s annual securities reports, although other company officials felt the payments should have been listed as Ghosn’s remuneration.

Sources said a major reason prosecutors went ahead with Ghosn’s arrest was the huge sum involved in the suspected falsified reports.

Prosecutors felt that Ghosn was trying to swindle investors and shareholders of Nissan, the sources said.

Nissan sources said Ghosn may have under-reported his income because of constant criticism over his high pay. Some shareholders expressed opposition to his remuneration even after it had apparently been under-reported as 10 billion yen or so a year.