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Authorities in Beirut have yet to begin their investigation into the escape from Japan of former Nissan Motor Co. boss Carlos Ghosn, who jumped bail and fled to Lebanon late last year, the top prosecutor has said.

Prosecutor General Ghassan Oweidat told Kyodo News in an exclusive interview Wednesday that Lebanese authorities have not received any formal documents from Japan concerning Ghosn’s extradition, maintaining that he has “yet to be charged with a crime that is punishable by law in Lebanon” as he entered the Middle Eastern nation legally.

Ghosn, who headed Nissan for nearly two decades, faced trial in Japan over allegations that he misused company funds and understated his remuneration by billions of yen for multiple years.

Initially arrested by Tokyo prosecutors in 2018, he was released on bail in April 2019 but jumped bail and fled to Lebanon, where he spent his childhood, via Turkey on Dec. 29 last year. Ghosn has denied the allegations and said he fled Japan to escape what he called a “rigged” justice system.

While the United States and Turkey have arrested individuals allegedly involved in the dramatic escape of the fallen auto industry giant, the Lebanese government has indicated it is unlikely to hand Ghosn over. Japan does not have an extradition treaty with Lebanon.

According to Oweidat, Lebanese prosecutors have met with Ghosn three times. The first, on Jan. 9, was to notify him of an arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Police Organization shortly after he arrived in the country.

Prosecutors then met with Ghosn again to question him about any travel to Israel, which is banned under Lebanese law. In mid-December, they saw him a third time to confirm his intentions regarding a request for questioning by French authorities.

Prosecutors in France have launched a formal investigation into the alleged misappropriation of funds at Renault SA by Ghosn, who was also the French automaker’s former CEO.

Oweidat said that Ghosn has agreed to submit to questioning on Jan. 18 by French authorities, who plan to visit Lebanon.

Oweidat also said that Lebanese prosecutors have requested three times through Interpol that Japan forward the legal documents but have received no reply. Japanese authorities have also not asked to question Ghosn, he added.

Regarding whether Lebanon plans to hand Ghosn over to Japan, Oweidat said that he would “decide accordingly” based on the outcome of the investigations.

Lebanese prosecutors have confiscated the passports of Ghosn and his wife Carole and imposed a travel ban on the couple, but have not placed any other limits on their movements.

Lebanon's Prosecutor General Ghassan Oweidat in Beirut on Dec. 23, 2020. | KYODO
Lebanon’s Prosecutor General Ghassan Oweidat in Beirut on Dec. 23, 2020. | KYODO

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