AMSTERDAM -- Lawyers for Carlos Ghosn argued in a Dutch court on Monday for the release of internal documents relating to his dismissal by Nissan and Mitsubishi Motors.
Ghosn, the former chairman of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance who was arrested in Japan in 2018 but fled to Lebanon last December, launched a court case in the Netherlands against the Japanese automakers in July arguing that his firing was unlawful.
Lawyers for the automakers argued that Ghosn used a joint venture between Nissan and Mitsubishi to inflate his pay, effectively clawing back a cut to his declared wages, and to cover a personal tax debt.
Monday's hearing at the Amsterdam District Court was the first public session in the case. Ghosn is seeking 15 million euros ($17 million) in damages from the automakers, who he says violated Dutch labor laws.
"Nissan and Mitsubishi publicly shamed Ghosn," attorney Roeland de Mol told the court. "Their reports and accusations were never put to Ghosn. There was no due process."
De Mol said Ghosn wants "a full debate on the reasons of Ghosn's dismissal. We need the information in his file to be able to do that. Mr. Ghosn is ready for a fight."
His lawyers claim he was unfairly dismissed as chairman of Nissan-Mitsubishi BV, a Dutch-registered entity, because the details of the allegations were not shared with him. They argue the documents will show the companies were aware of Ghosn's activities.
Attorneys for the automakers said Ghosn granted himself a salary and bonus worth 7.3 million euros ($8 million) in total without the knowledge of the boards of Nissan and Mitsubishi.
Nissan informed the court on Monday that it would request Ghosn repay the compensation he received from the Dutch-based joint venture with Mitsubishi, a person close to the Japanese automaker told Reuters. Nissan would seek a refund on the basis that the compensation was not properly authorized, the person said.
The companies had previously challenged these payments.
The company lawyers alleged in the arguments submitted to the Dutch court that Ghosn had awarded himself that compensation through the Nissan-Mitsubishi joint venture to offset a cut in his publicly-declared earnings, to which he had agreed when stepping down as Nissan CEO in April 2017.
Nissan-Mitsubishi lawyer Eelco Meerdink said there was also evidence that Ghosn made the alliance pay a personal French tax debt of 498,000 euros ($545,000) in 2018, and that he had arranged a "pre-payment" of his 2019 salary in 2018 to avoid a scheduled increase in Dutch income tax rates.
Ghosn has denied any wrongdoing, including concerning the way he was compensated
"We don't dispute that Mr Ghosn received a good salary," Ghosn attorney de Mol said. "But he had the heavy task of getting French and Japanese companies to cooperate. He didn't retire to go play golf after he stepped down as Nissan CEO."
The Amsterdam court said it would postpone any decision on documents until Nissan and Mitsubishi file their case on the reasons for Ghosn's dismissal, which is expected on March 26