Exclusive: Lebanon’s Ambassador to Japan denies his embassy helped Carlos Ghosn escape

Lebanon’s ambassador to Japan, Nidal Yehya, spoke exclusively to Arab News Japan. (File/Getty Images)
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Updated 02 January 2020

Exclusive: Lebanon’s Ambassador to Japan denies his embassy helped Carlos Ghosn escape

  • Ambassador Nidal Yehya issues exclusive statement to Arab News Japan after direct media accusations of Embassy involvement in Carlos Ghosn's escape
  • A Lebanese judicial sourced said Lebanon has received an Interpol arrest warrant for Carlos Ghosn

The Lebanese Ambassador to Japan has strongly denied his embassy was involved in the dramatic escape of Carlos Ghosn in an exclusive statement to Arab News Japan, after widespread accusations in the media.

The fugitive former Nissan boss made global headlines with his Hollywood-esque escape from Japan, after somehow slipping past immigration authorities and checkpoints to fly out in a cargo plane to Turkey and finally arriving on New Year’s Eve in Lebanon via private jet.

An arrest warrant for Ghosn was issued by the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol) on Thursday, according to a Lebanese judicial source.

Lebanon’s ambassador to Japan, Nidal Yehya, issued a statement to Arab News Japan on Thursday saying: “The Lebanese Embassy in Tokyo is keen to inform Japanese public opinion that the Lebanese embassy had absolutely no relationship or interference with how Carlos Ghosn got out of Japan, and his violation of the conditions for his release on bail.

“Rather, the Embassy has always stressed to him that he must abide by all the conditions of his release, as decided by the Criminal Court in Tokyo, in order to ensure his health and to ensure the proper preparation of the defence for the cases brought against him.” Ambassador Yehya spoke out after media reports accused the Embassy of involvement.

Yōichi Masuzoe, who served as governor of the Japanese capital from 2014 to 2016, accused the Embassy of misusing its diplomatic privileges. He tweeted to his 161,900 followers: “The immigration system for entry and exit procedures are very strict. There is also special auditing of private jets.

“The officials there could not be mistaken in such a situation. I think that the Embassy of Lebanon is involved somehow in the escape of Carlos Ghosn because of the use of diplomatic privileges.

“As for Ghosn, he may have fled because he wants the Japanese government to thoroughly clarify the fact.”

Masuzoe is a controversial figure in Japanese politics. He was a member of the House of Councillors, the upper house of Japan’s parliament the National Diet, from 2001 to 2013 before being elected as Governor of Tokyo in 2014.

But in 2016, he was forced to resign over allegations of misuse of public funds. While an investigation found no criminal behaviour, he faced a vote of no confidence after details emerged of flamboyant spending on hotels, restaurants and travel, and he resigned.

The statement followed a day of developments surrounding Carlos Ghosn’s escape.

In Tokyo, Japanese prosecutors raided the Tokyo home Ghosn with officers seen entering the property.

In Turkey, police detained seven people – four pilots, a cargo company manager and two airport workers – after the interior ministry launched a probe into the transit of ousted Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn, who after fleeing Japan stopped in Turkey on his way to Lebanon, broadcaster NTV said on Thursday.

And, in France junior economy minister Agnes Pannier-Runacher said the state ‘will not extradite’ Ghosn if he arrives in the country.

Lebanon president to chair crisis talks over weekend violence

Updated 20 January 2020

Lebanon president to chair crisis talks over weekend violence

  • The meeting will touch on “security developments” in the country
  • Lebanon has been without a government since outgoing prime minister Saad Hariri resigned on October 29

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s under-fire president is set to meet Monday with top security officials to discuss rare violence over the weekend that left hundreds wounded in the protest-hit country.

Michel Aoun will be joined by the care-taker ministers of the interior and defense as well as the chiefs of the military and security agencies in the early afternoon, his office said in a statement.

The meeting will touch on “security developments” in a country rocked since October 17 by unprecedented protests against a political class deemed incompetent, corrupt and responsible for an ever-deepening economic crisis.

It will also address “measures that need to be taken to preserve peace and stability,” the state-run National News agency (NNA) reported.

Demonstrators at the weekend lobbed stones, firecrackers and street signs at riot police, who fired tear gas and rubber bullets to clear a flashpoint road near parliament.

Over the most violent weekend in three months of street protests, some 530 were wounded on both sides, according to a toll compiled by AFP from figures provided by the Red Cross and Civil Defense.

Lawyers and rights groups have condemned the “excessive” and “brutal” use of force by security forces.

Human Rights Watch accused riot police of “launching tear gas canisters at protesters’ heads, firing rubber bullets in their eyes and attacking people at hospitals and a mosque.”

Internal Security Forces, for their part, have urged demonstrators to abstain from assaulting riot police and damaging public or private property.
Protesters had called for a week of “anger” over the political leadership’s failure to form a new government even as the debt-ridden country sinks deeper into a financial crisis.

Lebanon has been without a government since outgoing prime minister Saad Hariri resigned on October 29 in the face of popular pressure.

Political factions agreed on December 19 to appoint former education minister Hassan Diab as the new premier but have since squabbled over ministerial posts and portfolios.

Protesters have demanded a new government be comprised solely of independent experts, and exclude all established political parties.

The United Nations’ envoy to Lebanon pinned the blame for the violence on politicians.

“Anger of the people is understandable, but it is different from vandalism of political manipulators, that must be stopped,” Jan Kubis wrote on Twitter on Saturday.