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Carlos Ghosn, the former head of Nissan Motor, reportedly had sued the automaker and connected individuals for ousting him in 2018 and arranging his arrest for alleged financial misconduct, claiming more than US$1bn for “deep damage” to his finances and reputation.

The former auto executive filed his claims with the public prosecutor in the Court of Cassation in Lebanon, where he has lived since his dramatic escape from Japan in late 2019 to flee trial. The lawsuit, seen by Bloomberg News, was submitted on 18 May and translated into English from Arabic.

Bloomberg noted Ghosn had minced few words criticising Nissan and Japan’s legal authorities for removing him from the world’s biggest automaking alliance. He still faces criminal charges in Japan for what prosecutors describe as a plot to under report his compensation, as well as a civil lawsuit filed by Nissan in a court in Yokohama seeking monetary damages.

“The serious and sensitive accusations” against me “will linger in people’s minds for years,” Ghosn reportedly asserted in the lawsuit, saying he “will suffer from them for the remainder of his life, as they have persistent and lingering impacts, even if based on mere suspicion”.

Bloomberg said the lawsuit claims $588m in lost compensation and costs, as well as $500m in punitive measures. Nissan’s shareholders also suffered losses after the company squandered its first-mover advantage with respect to electric vehicles. Ghosn is no longer a shareholder in the company.

The lawsuit reportedly also makes claims against at least a dozen people, including:

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By GlobalData
  • Hari Nada, a Nissan employee seen as one of the key instigators of the plot to oust Ghosn
  • Hidetoshi Imazu and Hitoshi Kawaguchi, two senior Nissan managers with early involvement in Nissan’s actions against Ghosn
  • Toshiaki Onuma, a manager in the CEO’s office, who along with Nada, agreed to cooperate with Japanese prosecutors to avoid prosecution
  • Masakazu Toyoda and Motoo Nagai, two Nissan board members

A Nissan representative told Bloomberg the company hadn’t yet received the lawsuit or was aware of it, and therefore couldn’t comment or make anyone available for comment on Ghosn’s claims.

The lawsuit includes other individuals and entities, which have not yet been served, according to Ghosn’s legal representative. Lebanon’s public prosecutor has set a hearing for September. Authorities in Lebanon can request cooperation from their Japanese counterparts to investigate Ghosn’s assertions.

Bloomberg said it was not clear whether Japan’s judicial system, which Ghosn has said is “rigged” and “violates the most basic principles of humanity,” would be willing to cooperate with authorities in Lebanon, which doesn’t extradite its citizens.

The report noted that, in 2020, a UN panel found that Ghosn’s detention in a Japanese jail for more than 100 days was neither necessary nor reasonable and violated his rights. The decision to arrest Ghosn four times in a row so as to extend his detention was “fundamentally unfair,” according to the United Nations Human Rights Council’s Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.

Blomberg said the 18-page claim included Ghosn’s plan to bring Nissan, Renault and Mitsubishi Motors under a grand alliance with Fiat Chrysler which, he said, fueled concerns within Nissan in early 2018 that he was seeking to make the partnership irreversible.

Nada and others then laid the groundwork to have Ghosn arrested in order to remove him from Nissan and the alliance, according to the former auto executive.

Bloomberg said Ghosn also described his intentions for taking a voluntary pay cut in 2011 after new disclosure rules in Japan triggered efforts to find legal means to retain and pay him during retirement. Those plans eventually became the basis for the arrest of Ghosn and Greg Kelly, a former Nissan director who was involved in the salary discussions. A trial verdict last year exonerated Kelly of most charges and imposed a fine on Nissan.

The former auto executive reportedly described how he received job offers by Volkswagen, Ford and a more lucrative salary to join General Motors but decided to stay with the alliance following the 2008-2009 global financial crisis. Ghosn said the efforts within Nissan to find ways to compensate and keep him were criminalised because that was the only “means found by the conspirators to get rid of him as the chairman of the board of directors”.

Nada and others then waged a “defamation campaign to tarnish his image,” Ghosn reportedly asserted in the lawsuit. The claim also detailed the involvement of the Japanese and French governments, the purge of certain people from Nissan following Ghosn’s arrest, issues with the company’s internal investigation into the matter and damage done to shareholders as a result of the actions.

“They cannot plot a lie and cheat and get away with it,” Ghosn told Bloomberg by telephone from Beirut. “This is just a small response to the damage they created. I don’t think they can right the wrong, because the damage is so deep — this is intended to repair part of the damage that has been done.”