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Tue 7 Jan 2020 08:50 AM

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Nissan to keep pursuing legal action against Carlos Ghosn

Makoto Uchida, who became Nissan CEO last month, has a long list of challenges

Nissan to keep pursuing legal action against Carlos Ghosn

Former Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn. Image: Kazuhiro NOGI/AFP

Nissan Motor Co said it will take “appropriate legal action” against former chairman and chief executive officer Carlos Ghosn for any harm caused to the company, maintaining its stance of holding him responsible for serious misconduct.

“The consequences of Ghosn’s misconduct have been significant,” the automaker said in a statement Tuesday.

Ghosn fled Japan in a daring escape just over a week ago. He is planning to hold a news conference in Beirut on Wednesday to express his innocence and argue that his arrest for financial crimes in Japan in November 2018 was part of a plot at the carmaker to take him down.

With profits at decade lows and its stock tanking, Nissan is rife with internal divisions over the ouster of its former leader and the way forward. Makoto Uchida, who became CEO last month, has a long list of challenges. A top deputy abruptly quit, some 12,500 jobs are on the chopping block, and Uchida needs to refresh an aging lineup of models.

“The internal investigation found incontrovertible evidence of various acts of misconduct by Ghosn, including misstatement of his compensation and misappropriation of the company’s assets for his personal benefit,“ the Yokohama-based automaker said in the statement. “Nissan will continue to do the right thing by cooperating with judicial and regulatory authorities wherever necessary.”

Legal saga

Ghosn was arrested just over a year ago at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport, kicking off a legal saga that saw him detained for months in solitary confinement before being released on bail, re-arrested and bailed out again. Ghosn was under house arrest, facing trial for alleged crimes including understating his income and breach of trust charges when on Dec. 31 - as Japan entered a weeklong holiday - he fled to Lebanon to escape what he described as a “rigged Japanese justice system.”

The former globetrotting auto executive, who has Lebanese citizenship, plans to give the names of people he believes are behind a “coup” to take him down, including those of some in the Japanese government, at the anticipated press briefing, according to Fox Business Network’s Maria Bartiromo, who said she spoke to him last weekend.

In his first remarks since the escape, Ghosn said he would “finally communicate freely with the media, and look forward to starting next week.” Ghosn told Fox that he’ll say at the Beirut briefing that he’s willing to have his case heard by any court, aside from those in Japan.

Nissan needs to get its business in order fast, with autonomous vehicles and electrification poised to disrupt the auto industry in a once-in-a-generation shift. Ghosn’s arrest also hurt its alliance with top shareholder Renault SA, bringing long-standing tensions between the companies to the fore.

“Carlos Ghosn’s escape to the Lebanese Republic without the court’s permission in violation of his bail conditions is an act that defies Japan’s judicial system,” Nissan said. “Nissan finds it extremely regrettable.”

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