Nissan lawsuit against absent Ghosn opens in Japan

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A civil lawsuit began on Friday in Japan on Nissan’s demand for 10 billion yen, or $ 95 million, in damages from its former president, Carlos Ghosn.

The automaker has sued Ghosn for what it claims to be prejudice suffered by various types of alleged financial misconduct. Ghosn waived his bail late last year pending a separate criminal trial in Japan.

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Ghosn said in a statement from Lebanon on Friday that the trial would prove his innocence, “that the suspicions of wrongfulness and the charges against me have absolutely no basis. ”

The civil case is heard in the port city of Yokohama, where Nissan Motor Co. is based. Nissan filed it in February.

“Nissan conducted a solid and in-depth internal investigation that included outside lawyers. The investigation concluded that Ghosn intentionally committed serious misconduct, ”Nissan said.

Nissan accused Ghosn of spending the company’s money on things such as houses in Lebanon and Brazil, using the company’s plane for family trips, and donations to universities in Lebanon that , according to him, had no commercial interest.

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Ghosn reiterated that the accusations were “fabricated”. He said questions about his business activities could have been resolved within the company.

“Nissan’s current civil lawsuit is an extension of the extremely unreasonable internal investigation with sinister intent by some of Nissan’s senior management and unreasonable arrests and indictments by public prosecutors,” Ghosn said.

Ghosn, arrested in November 2018, has been charged with breach of trust, misuse of company assets for personal gain and violating securities laws by not fully disclosing his compensation.

For the civil trial, Ghosn hired famous lawyer Nobuo Gohara, who wrote a book of interviews with Ghosn.

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“Prosecutor Gohara has repeatedly reported serious problems with the investigations and indictments by public prosecutors and the governance of Nissan which banned me,” Ghosn said.

The criminal trial opened in September in Tokyo District Court without Ghosn. Former Nissan executive Greg Kelly and Nissan as a company are present as defendants. Kelly says he’s innocent. Nissan has admitted its guilt. A verdict is not expected for months.

Testimonies showed that Ghosn returned around half of his salary when Japanese laws were revised in 2010, to require that individual executives’ salaries of more than 100 million yen ($ 1 million) be reported. Nissan officials had tried to find ways to pay it without making it public because it was so huge compared to the pay of Japanese “employees”.

Ghosn said he fled because he couldn’t expect a fair trial in Japan, a nation with a 99% conviction rate. Tokyo prosecutors say they are confident they have a case against Ghosn, as well as Kelly.

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Meanwhile, Japan is asking the United States to extradite two Americans accused of helping Ghosn escape to Lebanon.

Ghosn led Nissan for two decades, starting with a remarkable turnaround, saving the Leaf EV maker and luxury models Infiniti from the brink of bankruptcy.

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