The first hearing for Nissan Motor Co.’s lawsuit against Carlos Ghosn is scheduled to take place in Yokohama on Friday, part of the Japanese automaker’s efforts to claim 10 billion yen ($95 million) in damages from its former chairman.
Nobuo Gohara, an ex-prosecutor and critic of Japan’s justice system, said he and a team of lawyers will represent Ghosn in the civil case, which was filed in February by Nissan. The automaker is seeking to “recover a significant part of the monetary damages inflicted on the company by its former Chairman as a result of years of his misconduct and fraudulent activity,” it said in a statement at the time.
Ghosn, 66, was arrested in November 2018 on charges of financial misconduct and was facing a criminal trial in Japan until he made a dramatic escape to Lebanon at the end of December last year. While the former auto executive may never face a Japanese tribunal, others in his orbit remain embroiled in legal proceedings.
Greg Kelly, the former Nissan director who was arrested on the same day as Ghosn and was charged with helping Ghosn understate his remuneration, has denied the allegations and is in the third month of his trial in Japan. Michael Taylor and his son Peter are currently detained in Boston as they face extradition to Japan on allegations they aided in Ghosn’s escape.
“I accepted this case because it may be the only way to learn the truth about Ghosn’s arrest and the charges against him, given that he is no longer in the country and unlikely to face criminal proceedings,” said Gohara, who published a book earlier this year questioning prosecutors’ actions against Ghosn.
The initial hearing for Nissan’s lawsuit will take place at the Yokohama District Court at 11 a.m. on Nov. 13. Gohara will be joined by three other attorneys.
“We do not comment on pending litigation,” Azusa Momose, a spokeswoman for Yokohama-based Nissan, said in response to an inquiry about the hearing. “We will make our claims in court.”
Nissan and the Tokyo Public Prosecutors Office have asserted that Ghosn underreported his income and used company money for personal gain, charges that he has denied. Nissan, which was also charged, isn’t contesting the prosecutors’ assertions. Nissan director Motoo Nagai, chair of the board’s audit committee, is the company’s representative for the civil proceedings, according to a copy of the lawsuit obtained by Bloomberg.
“Nissan’s claims are baseless, and it failed to produce evidence supporting its claims,” said Leslie Jung-Isenwater, a spokeswoman for Ghosn. “Mr. Gohara will defend Mr. Ghosn’s interests in this civil procedure.”
Separately, Ghosn is pursuing his own claims against Nissan, saying he was wrongly dismissed from the carmaker’s Dutch unit and by a joint venture called Nissan-Mitsubishi BV. He’s claiming 15 million euros ($18 million) in lost income.
The 10 billion yen total that Nissan is seeking is based on payments made to or on behalf of Ghosn, including “the use of overseas residential property without paying rent, private use of corporate jets, payments to his sister, payments to his personal lawyer in Lebanon” as well as costs related to the investigation into his actions, and legal and regulatory fees.
Nissan shares were down about 1.2% in early morning trading on Thursday, ahead of the automaker’s quarterly earnings announcement. The stock is down about 35% this year.
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