National / Crime & Legal

Ghosn to face hearing in Lebanon as Japan, Turkey probe escape

AFP-JIJI

Former Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn, who skipped bail and fled to Beirut, is due to be summoned by Lebanon’s public prosecutor next week, an official said Friday.

Japanese investigators are probing how the man who was once the country’s best paid corporate executive managed to slip out of house arrest and dodge trial, causing a national embarrassment.

In Turkey, where Ghosn switched jets on his way to Beirut, a private aviation company said its aircraft were used illegally and filed a complaint after the authorities arrested seven individuals over the secret transit.

The Lebanese authorities have already stressed that Ghosn — who holds French, Lebanese and Brazilian citizenship — entered the country legally and that Beirut had no extradition agreement with Japan.

An official speaking on condition of anonymity said a summons was expected to be handed to Ghosn next week as a result of Interpol issuing a Red Notice against him.

“The Lebanese judiciary is obliged to hear him. But it can still decide whether to arrest him or let him remain free,” the official said, adding that Ghosn could be heard on Tuesday or Wednesday.

A Red Notice is a nonbinding request to law enforcement across the world to provisionally arrest someone pending extradition, surrender or similar legal action. It is not an arrest warrant.

Ghosn said in a statement on Thursday that he acted alone in planning his escape. He is due to speak to the media in Beirut next week.

“I have not fled justice — I have escaped injustice and political persecution,” Ghosn, 65, said in a statement on New Year’s Eve.

Ghosn has not been seen in public since he arrived in Lebanon, where he is believed to be holed up in a central Beirut residence.

Ghosn, who was born in Brazil, is well connected in Lebanon, where he owns stakes in several major business ventures and firms.

Some Lebanese see him as a symbol of their country’s fabled entrepreneurial genius and a star representative of its vast diaspora.

The mood has changed since his November 2018 arrest, however, and weeks into an unprecedented wave of protests against corruption and nepotism, activists saw his return as another manifestation of privilege and impunity for the superrich.