SAO PAULO/TOKYO (Reuters) - The daughter of ousted Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn early on Friday retrieved documents and cash from a corporate apartment in Rio de Janeiro, capping a legal battle over the items, which the carmaker maintains may contain evidence of wrongdoing.
The midnight visit by Ghosn’s daughter Caroline, accompanied by two court officers and multiple Nissan lawyers, came after a week-long legal brawl over the apartment, especially the contents of three safes. An appelate judge on Thursday granted her access to the beachfront apartment over the objections of Nissan.
Brazilian-born Ghosn was arrested last month and indicted this week in Japan for allegedly under-reporting his income. Nissan also accuses him of diverting company funds to pay for personal expenses.
Nissan has said the contents of the safes would include documents detailing irregularities and cried foul because its lawyers were not allowed to see safes being opened last night. A spokeswoman for Ghosn said there were no documents in them.
Both parties agree that documents were found in the apartment but outside the safe. Nissan representatives unsuccessfully tried to review the papers, a company spokesman said.
“Nissan’s representatives observed Mr. Ghosn’s representatives removing two plastic folders containing documents,” Nissan spokesman Nick Maxfield said in a statement. “We believe that these documents cannot possibly have been of a personal nature.”
Devon Spurgeon, the spokesperson for Ghosn, said the documents were old agendas from a previous business trip to Brazil. Nissan pointed to a folder entitled “Resende plant,” which Spurgeon said was an agenda.
Resende, the site of Nissan’s newest plant in Brazil, was the main pretext for Nissan to buy the apartment, located in the famed Copacabana neighborhood.
Two judicial officers witnessed the opening of the safes, Spurgeon said, acknowledging that Nissan’s lawyers, who were present for the rest of the proceedings, were not allowed to see their contents.
She added that what was in the safes were the equivalent of $20,000 in cash in Brazilian currency and a gifted wallet that Ghosn disliked. She said the third safe was not really a safe, but just a small lockbox with keys.
When the documents were found, both parties agree, Nissan asked a judge to be allowed to see the documents but the request was denied, which the carmaker says was “irregular” on the part of the courts.
Ghosn family denies that.
“At every point the family followed judicial protocol,” Spurgeon said, adding there was nothing to the documents. “Nissan called the judge, and the judge made the decision to side with the [Ghosn] family.”
Spurgeon said the daughter also took clothing, a backgammon set and other personal items they had purchased.
Ghosn, who brought Nissan back from the brink of bankruptcy and become one of the most powerful car executives in the world, has been in a Japan prison since his arrest. Ghosn has denied wrongdoing, according to media reports, and has appealed unsuccessfully for his detention to be overturned.
Reporting by Marcelo Rochabrun in Sao Paulo and Ritsuko Ando in Tokyo; Editing by Alexander Smith and Alistair Bell