monday, 13 january of 2020


Lebanon leaves possibility of Carlos Ghosn handover open, wants his dossier from Japan in 40 days

Lebanon’s interim Justice Minister Albert Serhan did not rule out the possibility of the country handing over former Nissan Motor Co. Chairman Carlos Ghosn to Japan.

If a Lebanese court rules Ghosn guilty and its prosecutors find special circumstances, it could be possible to send him back to Japan, Serhan said in Beirut.

But Serhan stopped short of referring to any exceptional circumstances that may lead to the handover of the former triple automobile executive, who jumped bail while awaiting trial for alleged financial misconduct.

Japan and Lebanon have no extradition treaty. Serhan said that Lebanon does not hand citizens over to foreign authorities in principle, suggesting that it is highly unlikely that Ghosn will be sent back to Japan.

Lebanese authorities on Thursday banned Ghosn from leaving the country while asking Japan to provide all investigation materials on him to the Lebanese side.

Serhan said that the departure ban will be lifted unless such materials reach Lebanese authorities within 40 days.

Lebanon has yet to receive any investigation materials or a request to hand over Ghosn, he said, stressing that Lebanon will not question Ghosn or launch an investigation into him before the arrival of the materials.

Also on Friday, Serhan met with Japanese Ambassador to Lebanon Takeshi Okubo. The envoy told Serhan that Japan will make efforts to provide its investigation materials promptly to Lebanese authorities.

Okubo showed understanding of Lebanese authorities’ investigation policy on Ghosn and asked Beirut to go ahead with the related judicial processes, according to Serhan.


Fugitive former Nissan Motor Co. boss Carlos Ghosn said Friday he has "plenty of documents" to prove he is innocent of financial misconduct charges.

"I have proofs, I have facts and I hope I will have witnesses also of people talking about the collaboration between some Nissan people, the prosecutors and some members of the administration into the preparation of my arrest" in 2018, Ghosn said in a pool interview with Japanese media organizations in Beirut.

Regarding how and where he will disclose the evidence, Ghosn said, “There will be probably a trial somewhere and I will share” the documents in the trial.

"I feel in Lebanon that at least I can defend myself. That’s what I want. So if I can defend myself then I can have fair justice," Ghosn said.

Ghosn is expected to stay in Lebanon for the time being as a travel ban has been imposed on him by the country’s prosecutors following an Interpol warrant requested by Japan over the allegations against him.

Late last month, Ghosn jumped bail and fled to his childhood home of Lebanon from Tokyo, where he was awaiting trial on allegations he misused Nissan funds and understated his remuneration by billions of yen for years.

At a news conference Wednesday in Beirut, his first public appearance since the escape, Ghosn said all of the charges leveled against him are “baseless” and that Japan’s “inhumane” judicial system denied him a fair and speedy trial.

Ghosn also leveled accusations of a “conspiracy” between Nissan and Japanese prosecutors to take him down and argued that the automaker staged a coup to stop him from seeking a merger with alliance partner and top shareholder Renault SA.

The Japanese government, prosecutors and Nissan officials have all denied the claims made by the former auto tycoon at the news conference and said he failed to justify his escape.

The prosecutors have vowed to bring Ghosn to justice in Japan. But it is unlikely he will return as Lebanon does not have an extradition treaty with Japan.

Separately, Lebanon’s caretaker justice minister, Albert Serhan, said in a statement Friday that it may lift a travel ban on ousted Ghosn if files pertaining to his case do not arrive from Japan within 40 days.

Serhan said in the statement that he had met with the Japanese ambassador to Lebanon and reaffirmed the importance of the relationship between the two countries.

In the interview, Ghosn again declined to comment on how he escaped, only saying, "I never said my departure from Japan is legal" and it was planned by himself without his lawyers or family members knowing.

Japanese investigative sources said Ghosn traveled to Osaka from Tokyo on a bullet train on Dec. 29 before flying out of Kansai International Airport on a private jet. He arrived in Lebanon via Turkey on Dec. 30.

Ghosn also continued to refrain from naming people in the Japanese government whom he thinks were behind his arrest in November 2018.

"I said I wasn’t going to talk about it because I didn’t want to create more problems in the relationship between Japan and Lebanon," he said.

Ghosn, who holds Brazilian, French and Lebanese nationality, said he fled Japan due in part to bail conditions imposed on him that prohibited him from contacting his wife, Carole, without permission.

The interview took place as most of the Japanese media were not allowed to attend the news conference, which was streamed live on the internet by some of the media outlets hand-picked by him.

Ghosn said he had to select journalists mainly due to a limited capacity of 150 people at the venue.

In a related move, Ghosn’s lawyer Francois Zimeray released a statement criticizing earlier remarks by Justice Minister Masako Mori defending Japan’s legal system and treatment of the former auto tycoon.

Referring to the minister’s comments on Thursday suggesting that Ghosn should make his argument before a Japanese court and prove his innocence, the statement said, "Since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted here, in Paris, in 1948, the presumption of innocence, respect of dignity and rights of defense have been essential components of what constitute a fair trial."

"Hence, it belongs to the prosecution to prove guilt and not to the accused person to prove … innocence," it said, adding that the Japanese justice system “ignores these principles,” although Tokyo has ratified the treaty.

Asserting that the Japanese "hostage system" aims to "crush the accused and not to seek truth through a fair and balanced dialogue," the lawyer said, "Mr. Ghosn was one of many victims in this system."

The statement also slammed the arrest warrant obtained by prosecutors for his wife for alleged perjury in court last year in connection with her husband’s suspected misuse of the company’s funds.

"Now, they are cowardly attacking Ms. Carole Ghosn to exact revenge and to shroud the humiliating situation for which they are responsible," it said.

"Japan is an admirable, modern, otherwise advanced country. It deserves better than an archaic system that holds innocent people hostage," the statement added.

(Published by The Japan times, January 11, 2020)

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