French investigators question fugitive auto titan Carlos Ghosn in Beirut

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French investigating judges questioned the high-flying auto executive turned international fugitive Carlos Ghosn for several hours in Beirut on Monday.

Ghosn, who simultaneously led three automakers as part of the Nissan-Renault-Mitsubishi alliance, has been fighting multiple probes since fleeing Japan in late 2019 in a daring escape that allegedly involved an ex-special forces soldier who helped Ghosn hide in a music equipment box.

Ghson hopes to clear his name in the multiple legal challenges against him in France, his legal team told reporters Monday.

“It is the very first time that our client can explain himself in front of the judges with his lawyers sitting next to him and after preparing his defense,” Jean Tamalet, one of Ghosn’s lawyers, told reporters, according to Reuters. “It is the very first time of justice for Carlos Ghosn since he was arbitrarily arrested in Japan.”

Ghosn has not been charged in France, but has faced accusations of fraud, corruption, money laundering, misuse of company assets and aggravated breach of trust, the Associated Press reported.

Ghosn was arrested in Japan in November 2018 on accusations of under-reporting his salary and using company funds for personal purposes. He fled to Lebanon, where Ghson was born and has citizenship, a year later in a stunning escape. Several of his associates, however, remain in jail or on trial in cases related to his financial activities or escape.

Ghosn has maintained his innocence and said he lost faith in the Japanese legal system’s treatment of foreigners. 

The focus of French investigators in Lebanon is lavish parties Ghosn threw at the Versailles Palace, which even included period costumes, when he was the head of the Renault-Nissan car alliance, the AP report said. They’re also examining millions in spending on private planes and events arranged by a Dutch holding company, and subsidies to a car dealership in Oman, according to the AP.

In a wide-ranging interview last week, Ghosn again defended himself and told the AP that he was the victim of a corporate coup attempting to oust him due to a drop in Nissan’s financial performance as the Japanese automaker resisted losing autonomy to French partner Renault. 

Ghosn has previously fingered former Nissan CEO Hiroto Saikawa, who resigned in the year after Ghosn’s arrest, and Hari Nada, a former senior vice president, among others as involved in the alleged conspiracy. 

With Post Wires

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