PARIS/BEIRUT: The extradition of former car executive Carlos Ghosn from Lebanon is unlikely despite the current international warrant sought by a French magistrate linked to a probe into suspect money flows between Renault and an Omani dealership.
Five international arrest warrants for Ghosn and the current owners or former directors of the Omani company Suhail Bahwan Automobiles, a vehicle distributor in Oman, were issued by the investigative judge, the Nanterre prosecutor’s office confirmed.
Ghosn is surprised by the international warrant issued by French magistrate, his spokesman told Arab News.
“Mr. Ghosn is not under examination. This warrant is therefore surprising because the investigating judge and the Nanterre prosecutor know perfectly well that Carlos Ghosn, who has always cooperated with the French justice authorities, is subject to a judicial ban on leaving the Lebanese territory,” said Jean Tamalet at King & Spalding — lawyer of Ghosn in France — to Arab News.
“We believe this move is the only technical resort they found to be able in the future to try the case in a court of law,” he added.
In the event that the French authorities adopt the Interpol’s Red Notice, it obliges the Interpol’s member states— that is, almost all countries of the world— to abide by it. However, the extradition is subject to the internal laws of each country, and according to Article 87 of the Interpol’s regulations, Lebanon has the right to refuse extraditing their citizens, and rather opt for a local trial.
“All European countries will have to hand over the wanted person, in the event of a European warrant issued by France. This is not the case in Lebanon for instance as well as other countries, the state does not extradite a Lebanese wanted person to foreign countries,” Lebanese appeal lawyer, Georges el-Khoury told Arab News.
The architect of the Renault-Nissan auto alliance has been fighting multiple probes since fleeing in late 2019 to Lebanon from Japan, where he faced separate financial misconduct allegations.
The Japanese investigation precipitated a vertiginous fall from grace for Carlos Ghosn, who had lived a jet-set lifestyle with properties in Paris, Rio de Janeiro and Beirut before he was detained for months in a Tokyo custody center and under home arrest.
He escaped Japan hidden in a box aboard a private jet.
At the time of Ghosn’s escape, he was awaiting trial on charges that he understated his compensation in Nissan’s financial statements by 9.3 billion yen ($85 million) over a decade and enriched himself at his employer’s expense through payments to car dealerships.
Ghosn — who denies any wrongdoing in the cases against him — remains in his childhood home, Lebanon, which has no extradition treaty with Japan and has a policy of not extraditing its own nationals.
Ghosn holds passports from France, Lebanon and Brazil.
The fugitive motor-industry mogul, wants to stand trial in a country he regards as more neutral than Japan, he told Arab News in July 2021.
In an interveiw with Arab News' Frankly Speaking show, Ghosn said he thinks the end of it has to be in a trial, but a trial that takes place in a country which has no stake in what is being tried.
He also talked of how he was “abandoned” by the French government after it “surrendered” to Japan.
French prosecutors allege Ghosn funneled millions of dollars of Renault funds through the Omani car distributor for his personal use, including for the purchase of a 120-foot yacht.
In early 2020, French prosecutors stepped up their investigation into Ghosn’s Omani dealings and a lavish party he threw at the Versailles palace in 2014.
Ghosn told Reuters in an interview last year that he was prepared for a lengthy process to clear his name with French authorities.
He was chairman of both Nissan and Mitsubishi and chief executive of Renault when he was arrested in Japan in 2018.