Ghosn's legal woes deepen as Nissan sues for $95 million in damages

FILE PHOTO: Carlos Ghosn, the former Nissan and Renault chief executive, gestures as he speaks during a news conference at the Holy Spirit University of Kaslik, in Jounieh, Lebanon September 29, 2020. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir/File Photo

TOKYO (Reuters) – Ousted Nissan Motor Co 7201.T chairman Carlos Ghosn’s legal woes deepened on Friday with the start of a civil trial in Yokohama, Japan, where his former employer is seeking 10 billion yen ($95 million) in damages.

“The legal actions initiated today form part of Nissan’s policy of holding Ghosn accountable for the harm and financial losses incurred by the company due to (his) misconduct,” Nissan said in a statement.

Ghosn, who also ran French carmaker Renault SA RENA.PA, has been in Lebanon since January after fleeing Japan before he was due to stand trial. He denies any wrongdoing.

Prosecutors, who arrested Ghosn two years ago, have charged him with hiding 9.3 billion yen ($88.6 million) in compensation, enriching himself at Nissan’s expense through $5 million payments to a Middle East car dealership and temporarily transferring personal financial losses to the automaker’s books.

The “Nissan civil lawsuit is an extension to the extremely unreasonable internal investigation with sinister intent by a portion of Nissan’s senior management and the unreasonable arrests and indictments by the public prosecutors,” Ghosn said in an emailed statement.

Ghosn, who has said he was removed from Nissan to thwart any merger with Renault, which already owns 43% of the Japanese carmaker, was represented in the Yokohama court by lawyers.

The civil proceeding got underway as the criminal trial of former Nissan executive Greg Kelly, who is accused of helping Ghosn hide his earnings, continued at a court in Tokyo.

Kelly, who has lived in Japan since his release on bail almost two years ago, also denies any wrongdoing. Nissan, which is also a defendant in that trial, has pleaded guilty. If found guilty, Kelly could face up to ten years in prison and a 10 million yen fine. The conviction rate in Japan is around 99%.

Nissan is drawing back from the business expansion undertaken under Ghosn. On Thursday, it trimmed its full-year operating loss forecast as a rebound in auto demand in China and elsewhere helped boost sales.

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