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Nissan sues Ghosn in Japan, seeks 10b yen in damages

Tokyo

NISSAN Motor Co is stepping up its pursuit of claims against former chairman Carlos Ghosn, suing for 10 billion yen (S$126 million) in damages from the former leader of the Japanese automaker and its alliance with Renault SA.

The lawsuit filed in Yokohama District Court seeks 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," Nissan said in a statement on Wednesday. The amount of the claim may rise depending on fines and penalties that Nissan will be obliged to pay, the carmaker added.

Ghosn was arrested in November 2018 on charges of financial wrongdoing, and faced trial in Japan until making a dramatic escape to Lebanon at the end of December. Nissan and Japanese prosecutors claim the former auto executive under-reported his income and used company money for person gain, charges which Ghosn has denied.

The damages sought by Nissan, if successfully reclaimed, could represent a significant part of Ghosn's net worth. The former auto executive's fortune is calculated to be about US$70 million, down from around US$120 million at the time of his first court appearance a year ago, according to estimates by the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

"The legal actions form part of Nissan's policy of holding Ghosn accountable for the harm and financial losses incurred by the company as a result of his misconduct," the Yokohama-based company said.

Nissan isn't the only party intent on going after Ghosn. Masako Mori, Japan's justice minister, said recently that she will "never give up" on bringing Ghosn to trial, even though the country has so far made little progress on its efforts to have him returned from Lebanon, which has no extradition treaty with Japan.

Ghosn, for his part, is pursuing claims against Nissan, saying he was wrongly dismissed from the carmaker's Dutch unit and by a joint venture called Nissan-Mitsubishi BV. He is claiming 15 million euros (S$22.7 million) in lost income.

The 65-year-old, who was facing two trials on charges of financial misconduct in Japan, jumped bail and fled the country late last year with the help of a security detail led by a former Green Beret. Ghosn has since accused executives at Nissan of plotting with prosecutors in Japan to have him unjustly arrested. BLOOMBERG