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Lebanon receives Interpol notice for Nissan ex-chair after Japan escape

Carlos Ghosn, wanted for financial offenses, reportedly fled in a private jet to Turkey, then continued to his native Lebanon where he entered legally

In this April 25, 2019, file photo, former Nissan Chairman Carlos Ghosn leaves Tokyo's Detention Center for bail in Tokyo, Japan. (Kyodo News via AP, File)
In this April 25, 2019, file photo, former Nissan Chairman Carlos Ghosn leaves Tokyo's Detention Center for bail in Tokyo, Japan. (Kyodo News via AP, File)

BEIRUT, Lebanon (AP) — Lebanon’s justice minister said Thursday that Lebanon had received an international wanted notice from Interpol for Nissan’s ex-chair Carlos Ghosn, four days after he fled Japan to Lebanon before a 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.

Ghosn skipped bail before his much-anticipated trial, 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. 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.

But he said that Lebanon and Japan do not have an extradition treaty, ruling out the possibility that Beirut would hand Ghosn over to Japan.

Japanese 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.

Private security guards stand together at the garage door of the home of former Nissan Chairman Carlos Ghosn in Beirut, Lebanon, January 2, 2020. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)

Tokyo prosecutors and police did not immediately comment. Government offices in Japan are closed this week for the New Year’s holidays.

It was unclear how Ghosn avoided the tight surveillance he was under in Japan and showed up in Lebanon.

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.

Prosecutors enter former Nissan Chairman Carlos Ghosn’s residence during a raid in Tokyo, January 2, 2020. (Yuki Sato/Kyodo News via AP)

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.

Turkish 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 four pilots, a cargo company manager and two airport workers.

The Hurriyet newspaper said the plane carrying Ghosn landed at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport at 5:30 a.m. on December 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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