Lebanon’s justice minister said Thursday that Lebanon has received an international wanted notice from Interpol for Nissan’s ex-chair Carlos Ghosn, four days after he fled Japan to Lebanon to evade trial on financial misconduct charges.
Albert Serhan told The Associated Press in an interview that the Red Notice for the former automotive titan was received earlier Thursday by the prosecution, and that Lebanon will do its part.
Ghosn, who is Lebanese and also holds French and Brazilian passports, skipped bail before his much-anticipated trial in Japan, which was to start in April. He arrived in Lebanon, his country of origin, on Monday via Turkey and hasn’t been seen in public since. In a statement, he said he had fled to avoid “political persecution.”
Authorities have said that he entered legally on a French passport.
Interpol’s so-called Red Notices are requests to law enforcement agencies worldwide that they locate and provisionally arrest a wanted fugitive.
Serhan, the minister, said the Lebanese prosecution “will carry out its duties,” suggesting for the first time that Ghosn may be brought in for questioning.
“We are a country of law and respect the law and … I can confirm that the Lebanese state will implement the law,” he said. “The prosecution will not stay cross-armed regarding this red notice.”
He said the prosecution will “carry out its duties” by summoning Ghosn and listening to him and “at a later stage if there are any measures to be taken, then the precautionary measures will be taken.”
Serhan added that Lebanon has not received any official extradition request from Japan, and that the two countries did not have an extradition treaty, ruling out the possibility that Beirut would hand Ghosn over to Japan.
“Mr. Ghosn arrived to Lebanon as any ordinary citizen. … Lebanese authorities have no security or judiciary charges against him, he entered the border like any other Lebanese using a legal passport,” he said.
Ghosn’s sudden arrival in Beirut a few months ahead of his much-anticipated trial shocked Japan and confounded authorities. How he was able to flee Japan, avoiding the tight surveillance he was under, is still a mystery.
Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency said Thursday that Turkish authorities had detained seven people as part of an investigation into how Ghosn fled to Lebanon via Istanbul.
The private DHA news agency reported that those detained are 4 pilots, a cargo company manager and two airport workers.
In Japan, prosecutors on Thursday raided Ghosn’s Tokyo home. Japanese media showed investigators entering the home, which was Ghosn’s third residence in Tokyo since he was first arrested a year ago. Authorities have now searched each one.
Tokyo prosecutors and police did not immediately comment. Government offices in Japan are closed this week for the New Year’s holidays.
Ghosn said Tuesday in a statement that he left for Lebanon because he thought the Japanese judicial system was unjust, and he wanted to avoid “political persecution.”
He said he would talk to reporters next week.
Lebanon said earlier that Ghosn entered the country legally, and there was no reason to take action against him.
Ghosn’s lawyers in Japan said they had no knowledge of the escape and they had all his passports. Ghosn has French, Lebanese and Brazilian citizenship.
Japanese public broadcaster NHK TV, without identifying sources, reported Thursday that Ghosn had two French passports.
Earlier, Japanese reports said there were no official records in Japan of Ghosn’s departure, but a private jet had left from a regional airport to Turkey.
The Hurriyet newspaper said the plane carrying Ghosn landed at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport at 5:30 a.m. on Dec. 29. Ghosn was not registered upon landing and was smuggled on board another plane that left for Lebanon, the paper reported.
Ghosn, who was charged in Japan with under-reporting his future compensation and breach of trust, has repeatedly asserted his innocence, saying authorities trumped up charges to prevent a possible fuller merger between Nissan Motor Co. and alliance partner Renault SA.
The 1.5 billion yen ($14 million) bail that Ghosn posted on two separate instances to get out of detention is being revoked.
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