Lebanon denies Aoun welcomed fugitive Carlos Ghosn after fleeing Japan

Lebanon denies Aoun welcomed fugitive Carlos Ghosn after fleeing Japan
Ghosn fled Japan last week following over seven months spent under house arrest as he fought accusations of financial misconduct.
3 min read
02 January, 2020
A media advisor to the president's office denied the two men had met. [Getty]
The Lebanese presidency on Thursday denied reports that President Michel Aoun had welcomed fugitive former Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn upon his arrival in the country.

The French-Lebanese tycoon, who had been under house arrest in Japan over several counts of financial misconduct, escaped in mysterious circumstances and arrived in Beirut on Monday.

Several media outlets reported that he had been greeted by Aoun after flying into Beirut via Istanbul.

In his alleged meeting at the presidency, Ghosn thanked Aoun for the support he had given him and his wife Carole while he was under house arrest over financial mishandling claims, sources told Reuters.

He now needs the protection and security of his government after fleeing Japan, they added.

But a senior presidency official denied the two men had met. 

"He was not received at the presidency and did not meet the president," the official told AFP.

Ghosn, who faced multiple charges of financial misconduct that he denies, had initially won bail in April but with strict conditions – one of which was a ban on overseas travel.

The circumstances around how he managed to flee Tokyo remain unclear, with some reports suggesting he was smuggled out in a musical instrument case.

The fallen car tycoon's lawyer in Japan, Junichiro Hironaka, said he didn't know how his client had left the country when his legal team had his three passports, French, Brazilian and Lebanese.

Hironaka has since come out and revealed the court had allowed him to keep a second French passport as he needed one to travel inside Japan, a source close to the matter told AFP.

"He had to keep this passport" to prove short-stay status, the source said, adding: "There was permission from the court".

There is no emigration data showing Ghosn's departure from Japan but he entered Lebanon on a French passport, public broadcaster NHK said.

It is still not clear how the high-profile fugitive managed to give authorities the slip, but he is thought to have taken a private jet from Kansai Airport in western Japan.

Ghosn has Lebanon's support

Lebanon's public security directorate has defended the decision of ex-Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn to flee Japan, where he faces criminal charges.

The former Lebanese-French auto titan, who is supposed to be currently under house arrest in Tokyo, arrived in Lebanon on Monday.

Lebanese media reported he arrived to Beirut on a private jet via Turkey.

"Carlos Ghosn entered the country legally and there is no need for legal action against him," the directorate said in his defense.

Ghosn was arrested in November 2018 and was expected to face trial in April 2020.

The Nissan chief was initially questioned on underreporting his income among other charges, and the carmaker launched an internal investigation that uncovered "substantial evidence of blatantly unethical conduct" by the former chairman, who ran three huge car companies.

He has already been stripped of his position on the board at Nissan and resigned from the head of Renault as well as the three-way alliance the two companies share with Mitsubishi Motors.

Prosecutors fought his release, but a court granted him bail with conditions that he be monitored and could not meet with his wife, Carole, who has also been questioned by prosecutors in Tokyo.

Japan does not have an extradition treaty with Lebanon. It is unclear what steps authorities might take.

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