Nissan is suing Carlos Ghosn for $90m (£70m), stepping up the legal battle against its former chairman after his arrest and dramatic flight from Tokyo to Lebanon.
The Japanese carmaker said it was seeking to recover costs from Ghosn’s “corrupt” actions, including the personal use of private jets, using residential property without paying rent and making payments to his sister and personal lawyer using company accounts.
Nissan said on Wednesday it hoped 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”.
The civil lawsuit, brought in a Yokohama court, comes on the eve of Nissan’s results announcement. Makoto Uchida, the new chief executive, wants to turn the struggling company around as it faces additional disruption from the coronavirus outbreak, which has forced it to shut a factory owing to a parts shortage.
Reuters reported that the company could report its first quarterly loss in more than a decade on Thursday because of falling sales.
Ghosn remains in Lebanon after fleeing bail in Tokyo in December by private jet. After arriving in Lebanon, a country where he had been lionised as one of the most prominent citizens in business, Ghosn claimed he was a victim of a “rigged Japanese justice system”. Lebanon has no extradition treaty with Japan.
The Brazilian-born businessman, who also holds French citizenship, was previously the leader of French and Japanese firms Renault and Mitsubishi.
Ghosn’s complex escape, which involved him taking a bullet train before a private jet flew him to Turkey and then Lebanon, means he has forfeited about $14m in bail paid to Japanese authorities. However, it is unclear whether Nissan will be able to recover more money.
Nissan said it expected to increase the size of its claim after adding the bill for legal costs as well as fines from the Japanese Financial Services Agency and penalties in criminal proceedings, for which it blames Ghosn. Nissan is also taking action in the British Virgin Islands over allegations related to a luxury yacht.
A spokesman for Ghosn said: “Nissan’s manoeuvres continue. This complaint is made public on the eve of the Japanese group’s financial results. We note that after months of announcing damages of ¥35bn, Nissan is now claiming ¥10bn at the moment.
“Mr Ghosn’s lawyers will react on the merits of the case once the content of the claim has been brought to their attention.”
Nissan said it also may bring action on the basis of “groundless and defamatory remarks” made by Ghosn in a press conference in which he said “unscrupulous, vindictive individuals” at the carmaker had conspired to bring him down, as well as likening his case to the Pearl Harbor attacks.