Lebanon issues travel ban for fugitive ex-Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn


Lebanese prosecutors have issued a travel ban for fugitive ex-Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn and asked him to hand in his French passport following an Interpol-issued notice against him, a judicial official said.

The travel ban comes after Ghosn was interrogated by prosecutors for nearly two hours over the notice about the charges he faces in Japan over alleged financial misconduct.

The prosecutors also formally asked Japanese authorities for their file on the charges against Ghosn in order to review the case, the official said.

Lebanon last week received the Interpol-issued wanted notice, which is a non-binding request to law enforcement agencies worldwide that they locate and provisionally arrest a fugitive.

At the hearing, Ghosn was asked to provide an address he resides at in Lebanon and was banned from travelling out of the country, the official said.

He was also asked to hand in his French passport.

It was not immediately clear what legal procedures would follow.

Lebanon and Japan do not have an extradition treaty, and the Interpol notice does not require that Lebanese authorities arrest him.

The authorities say Ghosn entered Lebanon on a valid passport, casting doubt on the possibility they would hand him over to Japan.

Interpol cannot compel Lebanon to arrest Ghosn and it will be up to the local law enforcement authorities to decide what to do.

On his first public appearance since he fled Japan, Ghosn on Wednesday criticised the Japanese justice system, accusing it of violating his basic rights and disputing all allegations against him as “untrue and baseless”.

He told a press conference in Beirut that he does not trust that he would have a fair trial in Japan but said he was ready to face justice anywhere else.

Carlos Abou Jaoude, a lawyer for Carlos Ghosn, leaves the judicial palace where Ghosn was questioned by a Lebanese prosecutor in Beirut

Ghosn, a French, Lebanese and Brazilian national, showed up in Lebanon on December 30, after an audacious and improbable escape from surveillance in Japan.

Lebanese officials said he entered legally, with a French passport and a Lebanese identification card.

While a travel ban restricts Ghosn’s movement, it also offers him a degree of protection by Lebanese authorities who would presumably ensure he complies with the ban.

France also does not have an extradition treaty with Japan.

According to the official, Ghosn was also interrogated on a separate report against him over a 2008 visit to Israel.

Lebanon and Israel are technically at war.

No decision was taken regarding this case, which according to Lebanese law can be punishable by between one and 10 years in jail.

Two Lebanese lawyers submitted a report to the Public Prosecutor’s Office saying the trip violated Lebanese law.

The violation may not be prosecutable, given that it happened 12 years earlier.

A famous Lebanese director who also carries a French passport and who was questioned over the same violation in 2017 was not prosecuted because the visit was three years prior.

Ghosn’s lawyer Carlos Abou Jaoude confirmed that his client was questioned in the two separate cases – the Interpol notice and the Israel trip.

He told reporters Ghosn was confident in the Lebanese judicial system.

At Wednesday’s press conference, Ghosn apologised to the Lebanese, saying he never wished to offend anyone when he travelled to Israel as a French national after Nissan asked him to announce the launch of electric cars there.

Tokyo prosecutors, who arrested him in late 2018, said Ghosn had “only himself to blame” for the four-month-long detention and for the strict bail conditions that followed, such as being banned from seeing his wife.

“Defendant Ghosn was deemed a high-profile risk, which is obvious from the fact that he actually fled,” they said.

Ghosn thanked the Lebanese authorities for their hospitality and defended its judicial system, which has long faced accusations of corruption and favouritism.

He said he would be ready to stand trial “anywhere where I think I can have a fair trial”. He declined to say where that might be.

With big gestures and a five-part slide presentation, Ghosn brought his case to the global media in a performance that at times resembled a corporate presentation.

Combative, spirited and at times rambling, he described conditions of detention in Japan that made him feel “dead … like an animal” in a country where he asserted he had “zero chance” of a fair trial.

He said he was held in solitary confinement for 130 days, was interrogated day and night for hours, appeared in handcuffs and a leash around his waist and was denied rights to see his wife for months.

In his 150-minute conference, Ghosn attacked Japanese prosecutors, saying they were “aided and abetted by petty, vindictive and lawless individuals” in the government, Nissan and its law firm.

He said it was them, not him, “who are destroying Japan’s reputation on the global stage”.

On Tuesday, Tokyo prosecutors obtained an arrest warrant for Ghosn’s Lebanese wife Carole on suspicion of perjury, a charge unrelated to his escape.

However, Japanese justice officials acknowledge that it is unclear whether the Ghosns can be brought back to Japan to face charges.

Nissan has said it is still pursuing legal action against Ghosn despite his escape.

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