Pedestrians pass a TV screen showing a news program noting Carlos Ghosn's first day in court in Tokyo on January 8, 2019. The former Nissan boss said he had been 'wrongly accused and unfairly detained'. Photo: Behrouz Mehri / AFP
Pedestrians pass a TV screen showing a news program featuring Carlos Ghosn's first day in court in Tokyo on January 8, 2019. Photo: AFP/ Behrouz Mehri

Carlos Ghosn, eight months after his arrest by Japanese authorities over alleged financial misconduct, is switching gears in his legal strategy and launching a suit of his own against automakers Nissan and Mitsubishi in a Dutch court.

The former auto chief, now awaiting trial and under house arrest in Tokyo, claims his former employers – whose joint subsidiary is based in the Netherlands – improperly terminated his contract, according to a report by the French daily Le Figaro.

While Ghosn resigned as head of Renault-Nissan in the wake of his November 2018 arrest, he did not formally give up his post as head of Nissan-Mitsubishi, the former being based in Paris and the latter in Amsterdam. The resort to Dutch jurisdiction reveals only one of the complexities beneath the troika of automakers, which increasingly appears to have been held together by the man himself.

Ghosn, who is credited with turning around the once-failing automakers, is now suing Nissan-Mitsubishi for €15 million in damages, according to Le Figaro.

The 65-year-old is simultaneously facing four separate indictments in Japan. These include breach of trust, understating his income, transferring personal financial losses to Nissan and misappropriating money for personal use from a company business partner in Oman.

Ghosn has proclaimed his innocence on all charges, insisting he is the victim of a conspiracy from within the management of Nissan, which he says was resisting closer integration with the French auto-maker Renault, Nissan’s major shareholder.

Nissan Motor Co, Ltd and Mitsubishi Motors Corporation for their part said a joint investigation found Ghosn had attained his post as head of Nissan-Mitsubishi and negotiated €7.82 million in compensation without the required approval of the NMBV board of directors, namely Nissan CEO Hiroto Saikawa and Mitsubishi Motors CEO Osamu Masuko.

That statement was made two months after Japanese authorities raided Ghosn’s Tokyo residence and arrested the once-revered executive.

Renault’s net profits have dropped more than one third since then, from €5.2 million net profit in 2017 to €3.3 million in 2018. Nissan’s profits more than halved, from 746.9 million Yen (€6.2 million) to  ¥319.1 million (€2.6 million). Mitsubishi saw its operating profit rise slightly, from ¥98.2 billion to to ¥111.8 billion.

Renault reportedly continues to push for a full merger with Nissan, which would allow it to incorporate Japanese technological innovation, such as electric car models, for the future. The absence of Ghosn as the outsized personality bridging the French and Japanese business cultures has likely made that quest even more difficult.

Back in Tokyo, the former executive has yet to be convicted of any offense and is awaiting trial.

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