Nissan says ex-chairman Carlos Ghosn still has no access to Rio apartment

The upmarket building on Rio de Janeiro's Copacabana Beach, in which Japanese car giant Nissan owns an apartment that was used by its former chairman Carlos Ghosn while he visited Brazil.
The upmarket building on Rio de Janeiro's Copacabana Beach, in which Japanese car giant Nissan owns an apartment that was used by its former chairman Carlos Ghosn while he visited Brazil.PHOTO: AFP

SAO PAULO/TOKYO (REUTERS) - Nissan Motor's former chairman Carlos Ghosn and his representatives still have no right to access a contested Rio de Janeiro apartment, the automaker said, after a fresh legal document showed a Brazilian court decision to grant access.

According to the document, seen by Reuters, the court decided on Wednesday (Dec 12) that the ousted chairman - indicted this week for financial wrongdoing - and his daughter should have the right to access the apartment to retrieve personal belongings.

Nissan said that the ruling was irrelevant, given an earlier decision by a higher court overturning that decision.

"Since there is still a decision in a higher court upholding Nissan's existing request, the current situation is that Ghosn's representatives are not entitled to enter the apartment," Nissan spokesman Nicholas Maxfield said.

Ghosn and Nissan have battled and appealed several times over the beachfront apartment, which he used while working for the carmaker, since he was accused of financial wrongdoing last month.

At the centre of the dispute is Nissan's claim that the apartment contains three safes that the carmaker says it found there.

Nissan says it has not opened the safes but that they may contain evidence against Ghosn, which could be lost if people close to him gained access to the apartment.

The document seen by Reuters showed the court allowing Ghosn and his daughter Caroline, who recently travelled to Brazil, to retrieve personal belongings such as "clothes, photos, books, watches, jewellery, documents".

 
 
 

To retrieve the items, representatives for Ghosn will have to go accompanied by two judicial officers, the decision says.

Ghosn has been in detention in Tokyo since his Nov 19 arrest for allegedly under-reporting his income.

A representative for the Ghosn family in the United States did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

Meanwhile Nissan plans to boost the number of external board members and set up a committee to oversee compensation as part of its effort to improve governance following the arrest of Ghosn for financial misconduct, a source said.

Critics have said Nissan lacked adequate governance, with few truly independent voices on the board capable of questioning Ghosn and looking out for regular shareholders' interests.

The company has not yet decided how many more external board seats to add, according to the source, who has knowledge of the matter but requested anonymity, as the talks are still confidential.

The current three external board members include retired Renault SA executive Jean-Baptiste Duzan, considered to represent the views of the French automaker which is Nissan's biggest shareholder.

The other two external board members are former bureaucrat Masakazu Toyoda and racing car driver Keiko Ihara.

Ghosn was indicted on Monday for under-reporting his income. The company also cited multiple instances of financial misconduct, including personal use of company assets.

Ghosn's detention has left the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi auto alliance without its leader.

Nissan is 43.4 per cent owned by Renault. While almost 60 per cent bigger by sales, it remains the junior partner in their shareholding hierarchy with a smaller reciprocal 15 per cent non-voting stake in the French firm.

Renault's biggest shareholder is the French state, with 15 per cent.