Ex-Nissan Chairman Carlos Ghosn ‘shocked’ Michael Taylor could be extradited
Carlos Ghosn on Michael Taylor extradition
BEIRUT — Fugitive ex-auto executive Carlos Ghosn says he is content with his life in Lebanon and ready for his next challenge — dealing with a team of French investigators who plan to question him next week about payments he made as the head of Renault SA.
Mr. Ghosn in late 2019 evaded trial in Japan over allegations of financial misdeeds as the head of Nissan Motor Co. by fleeing the country in a concert-gear box. In an interview, he said he has been preparing for the voluntary meeting with the French investigators through hourslong sessions with his lawyers.
"I've been looking forward to it," he said from an antique armchair in a boutique hotel here. "I would have liked them to come much earlier."
NISSAN FAILED TO REPORT INCOME FOR GHOSN IN JAPAN: REPORTS
As the center of gravity of Mr. Ghosn's legal jeopardy moves from Japan to France, the 67-year-old denies wrongdoing in both venues. He also says he doesn't regret the year and a half he has spent stuck in his boyhood home of Lebanon. Apart from working on his legal defenses, Mr. Ghosn spends one day a week organizing a business course at a local university. He goes on hikes with friends in the mountains around Beirut, and he plays online bridge.
Mr. Ghosn has long said he fled Japan because he didn't think he could get a fair trial there after his 2018 arrest. He now says he is no longer sure he would get a fair hearing in France, either. French authorities have seized millions of dollars worth of assets held by Mr. Ghosn and his wife amid the probe.
"I will see," he said, regarding his treatment by the French justice system. "I'll judge on the facts." He calls France's move to freeze his assets a method to "weaken my defense." French authorities say the seizures are proportionate to the allegations they are investigating.
Ex-Nissan chief Ghosn’s wife: Carlos is innocent
Ghosn detention appeal denied
Mr. Ghosn's escape quashed a planned trial in Tokyo, where he was accused of abusing his position as head of Nissan for personal gain and conspiring to hide part of his deferred compensation, charges he denies.
Lebanon doesn't extradite its citizens, so that trial is on indefinite hold. But a series of other legal proceedings that have sprung from it around the world are gaining pace. France is probing whether Mr. Ghosn abused his position as chief executive of Renault when he held two parties on the grounds of Versailles, the opulent former palace of King Louis XIV.
It is also investigating whether Mr. Ghosn funneled millions of dollars of company funds through a distributor for Nissan and Renault in Oman and into companies he controlled. Nissan and Renault make cars under an alliance that Mr. Ghosn led until his arrest.
GHOSN FIGHTS FOR INTERNAL NISSAN, MITSUBISHI DOCUMENTS IN DUTCH COURT
Mr. Ghosn has denied any wrongdoing over the Versailles parties, saying they were a public relations problem rather than a legal issue. He has said the payments to the Omani distributor were legitimate incentives.
Meanwhile, in the Netherlands, a court last week ordered Mr. Ghosn to repay about $6 million in salary he was paid by an Amsterdam-based joint venture between Nissan and Mitsubishi Motors Corp., another company in the alliance. The court ruled the pay wasn't justified. Mr. Ghosn — who initiated the proceedings — says he will appeal, and that he's owed money.
In all, Mr. Ghosn's attorneys say he faces more than two dozen legal cases or investigations triggered by Japan's allegations and his departure from Nissan and Renault, as well as his subsequent escape from Japan. Mr. Ghosn can't leave Lebanon. Interpol has issued a so-called red notice, alerting police and border-control officers around the world that he's wanted by Japan. Authorities here are holding his Lebanese passport.
Mr. Ghosn, who also holds French and Brazilian citizenship, once led a jet-set lifestyle. He was a regular at the annual mountain retreat for CEOs and world leaders in Davos, Switzerland. He traveled extensively between homes in Brazil, France and Japan, and to Renault and Nissan operations around the world.
In the interview, he says he doesn't regret fleeing Japan and giving all that up.
"I lost my other life, but I gained my freedom," Mr. Ghosn said. He said freedom was worth the legal and financial consequences, considering he was facing a trial that could have lasted years and charges carrying prison sentences that may have encompassed the rest of his life.
"I would have died in Japan," he said. "I was finished." Japan has said he would have received a fair trial had he remained in the country.