SAO PAULO/TOKYO (Reuters) – A Rio de Janeiro apartment containing cash, art works and personal belongings of Carlos Ghosn has become the latest battleground between the indicted former Nissan Motor Co Ltd chairman and the automaker.
Ghosn is seeking to retrieve “personal belongings, documents, cash, objects and art pieces” from the beachfront apartment, which Nissan says it owns. The home could contain evidence of financial misconduct, according to a filing by Nissan in a Brazilian court last week.
The previously unreported court papers show the extent of the legal dispute between Ghosn and Nissan over access to the apartment, one of several around the world he has been able to use. Nissan alleges Ghosn underreported his income by tens of millions of dollars and diverted corporate funds for personal use.
The legal dispute between Ghosn and Nissan extends far beyond Japan, where the scandal first broke and where Ghosn was formally charged on Monday.
The Rio apartment contains three safes that Nissan has yet to open, according to the filings. The carmaker found them when it did an audit of the apartment following Ghosn’s firing, the company said.
The apartment also has “designer furniture, artwork and decorative objects,” it added.
The Rio apartment was purchased by a Nissan subsidiary in late 2011 following the carmaker’s launch of a factory in the nearby city of Resende.
Nissan bought the apartment expecting that Ghosn’s trips to Brazil, where he was born and maintains citizenship, would “become more constant” after the factory opened, Nissan said in the filings.
The apartment is in the Copacabana neighborhood, on a road directly facing Rio’s famous beaches. An apartment in the same building was listed online for 12 million reais (2.41 million pounds).
Monday’s indictment in Japan puts the ball back in the court of Nissan’s alliance partner, Renault (RENA.PA). The French company, which owns a 43.4 percent stake in Nissan, is preparing for a Dec. 13 board meeting likely to consider Ghosn’s future as its chairman and chief executive.
Renault has so far stopped short of dismissing Ghosn while repeatedly demanding access to the findings of the Nissan internal investigation that led to his arrest.
`RISK OF DESTRUCTION OF EVIDENCE`
Court proceedings in Brazil started on Nov. 29 when a lawyer for Ghosn asked a judge to grant him access to the Rio apartment.
Nissan says allowing him access would “represent an incalculable risk of destruction of potential evidence of crimes allegedly committed.” So far he has been denied access by Brazil’s courts.
A lawyer for Ghosn, Jose Roberto de Castro Neves, told Reuters he was unaware of the existence of three different safes and that it was “absurd speculation” that they may contain evidence of wrongdoing.
“He’s a very smart guy,” de Castro Neves said in a brief phone interview. “If he had done something wrong, he would never leave it in the apartment.”
Hailed for bringing Nissan back from the brink of bankruptcy, Ghosn is a well known figure in Brazil, where he was born.
Tokyo prosecutors on Monday indicted Ghosn for under-reporting his income and also charged the automaker, making Nissan culpable for the alleged financial misconduct, which has shocked the industry. Ghosn was arrested in Japan on Nov. 19 and is being held in a Tokyo jail.
Reporting by Marcelo Rochabrun; editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and Steve Orlofsky