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Lebanese prosecutor slaps travel ban on former car magnate Ghosn

Carlos Ghosn at his first press conference since fleeing Japan, January 8, 2020.
Carlos Ghosn at his first press conference since fleeing Japan, January 8, 2020. © Mohamed Azakir, REUTERS

A Lebanese prosecutor imposed a travel ban on former Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn on Thursday, a judicial source said, after he was questioned over an Interpol warrant issued by Japan seeking his arrest on financial misconduct charges.

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Ghosn, 65, fled Japan to Lebanon, his childhood home, last month while awaiting trial on charges of under-reporting earnings, breach of trust and misappropriation of company funds, all of which he denies.

"The state prosecution issued a travel ban for Ghosn, and asked for his file from the Japanese authorities," a judicial source told AFP.

Responding to the travel ban, a lawyer for Ghosn told Lebanese media his client was "very comfortable with the judicial path in Lebanon". 

The ban came a day after the disgraced former auto tycoon denied any wrongdoing at a Beirut press conference Wednesday, his first since fleeing Japan.

Addressing a large crowd of journalists in the Lebanese capital, the one-time car industry titan said he was "presumed guilty" by Japanese prosecutors and had "no choice" but to jump bail.

Ghosn alleged "collusion" between Nissan and Japanese prosecutors over his arrest, which he described as "staged".

Dismissing all allegations against him as untrue, he said he had been "ripped" from friends and family when arrested, in what he described as a "travesty" of justice.

“I’m not above the law and I welcome the opportunity for the truth to come out and have my name cleared,” he told a packed room of journalists.

He added that he would be ready to stand trial "anywhere where I think I can have a fair trial".

 

Ghosn was awaiting trial in Japan on charges of financial misconduct when he slipped away from his Tokyo residence, crossed Japan on a bullet train and was smuggled onto charter jets that delivered him from Osaka to Lebanon via Istanbul.

His bail jump has prompted outrage from the Japanese government, which has called his escape "unjustifiable", as well as from Nissan, which labelled the getaway "extremely regrettable".

Many were hoping Ghosn would disclose details of his audacious escape during Wednesday’s press conference, but Ghosn told reporters he was "not here to talk" about how he fled Japan.

 

In a comment that was bound to cause further upset in Japan, he appeared to compare his arrest to the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941.

"I didn't suspect anything ... Did you see Pearl Harbor happening?" he quipped to reporters.

Prosecutors slam 'one-sided' account

Shortly after the press conference, Tokyo prosecutors issued a statement slamming the former Nissan chief's "one-sided" and "unacceptable" criticism of Japan's legal system.

The Tokyo prosecutor's office also said claims they had colluded with Nissan were "categorically false and contrary to fact".

The prosecutors said Ghosn had "only himself to blame for being arrested", accusing him of having "flagrantly disregarded Japanese law to avoid the consequences of the crimes he committed"

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>> A look back on Carlos Ghosn's fall from grace:

 

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, REUTERS)

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