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Japanese justice minister visits Lebanon over fugitive Ghosn

by Ace Damon
Japanese justice minister visits Lebanon over fugitive Ghosn

BEIRUT –
Japan's deputy justice minister met with Lebanese officials on Monday about the case of former fugitive Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn, who fled to his home country late last year on bail in Japan and awaiting trial.

Ghosn was arrested in late 2018 and is facing charges of underreporting income and breach of trust. He says he is innocent. He led Nissan for almost 20 years.

The Minister of State for Justice, Hiroyuki Yoshiie, met President Michel Aoun, as well as the Lebanese ministers of justice and foreign affairs. Yoshiie did not speak to reporters after the meetings and is scheduled to hold a press conference later in the day.

Aoun's office said in a tweet after the meeting that it discussed mutual relations and ways to develop them "in addition to matters of interest to both countries".

The tweet did not mention Ghosn, who made his first public appearance in Lebanon in early January, saying he fled a "nightmare" that would not end and promised to defend his name whenever he could get a fair trial.

On Friday, Japan's Justice Minister Masako Mori said he was dispatching authority to Beirut to explain the Japanese criminal justice system and improve cooperation.

She said Japan expects Lebanon to obtain "an adequate understanding of the Japanese criminal justice system".

Japan and Lebanon do not have an extradition treaty and Lebanon is unlikely to agree to send Ghosn back to Japan for trial.

Mori acknowledged that there were "multiple environments" and laws that support each country's position.

Nissan, maker of the Leaf electric car and the Z sports car, said in a statement about the bailiff's trip that he expects Ghosn to return to Japan to stand trial, "so that all the facts can be properly established in Japan's judicial system. ".

Having spent months in detention and struggling to obtain his release on bail under strict conditions, Ghosn said he fled believing he could not get a fair trial in Japan.

Japan requested Ghosn's return through Interpol and issued an arrest warrant after his escape.

Lebanese prosecutors issued a travel ban to Ghosn in January and asked him to hand over his French passport after an Interpol notice against him.

Nissan's sales fell recently and fell in losses in the last fiscal quarter. The brand is widely considered tainted by the controversy surrounding Ghosn.

Last month, Nissan filed a civil lawsuit against its former fugitive boss, seeking 10 billion yen ($ 90 million) in damages. The claim added to the costs of what Nissan called Ghosn's "corrupt practices", such as renting properties abroad, using corporate jets and paying for the internal investigation of irregularities.

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