BEIRUT (AFP) – Lebanon banned former auto tycoon Carlos Ghosn from travel Thursday and asked Japan to hand over his file on financial misconduct charges, as Tokyo urged the fugitive businessman to return.
The 65-year-old businessman – for years venerated in Japan for turning around once-ailing Nissan – fled while awaiting trial on charges including allegedly under-reporting his compensation to the tune of $85 million.
His shock arrival in his native Lebanon last month was the latest twist in a story worthy of a Hollywood plot and prompted outrage from the Japanese government as well as from Nissan.
On Thursday morning, a day after Ghosn made an impassioned defense in front world media of his decision to jump bail and flee Japan, he gave testimony to Lebanese prosecutors over an Interpol ”red notice” urging his arrest.
”The state prosecution issued a travel ban for Ghosn, and asked for his file from the Japanese authorities,” a judicial source told AFP.
A second judicial source said Ghosn had been asked to hand over his French passport and had been banned from travelling abroad until his judicial file arrived from Japan.
”According to what is inside the file, if it appears that the crimes he is accused of in Japan require being pursued in Lebanon, he will be tried,” the source added.
”But if it doesn’t require being pursued under Lebanese law, then he will be free.”
On Thursday afternoon, Ghosn told Lebanese media the travel ban was just a ”routine” measure and he had not planned to travel anyway.
He slammed as ”ridiculous” a call by Japan’s justice minister for him to return to Japan to defend himself against charges of financial misconduct.
The Japanese ”judicial system is completely backwards,” he told Lebanon’s LBCI television channel.
”I will fully cooperate with the Lebanese judiciary, and I’m much more comfortable with it than with the Japanese judiciary.”
In an interview with France 24 aired on Thursday, Ghosn compared Japan’s justice system to that of North Korea.
”You have people who do not want you to leave”, as if you were ”in North Korea, … China, or… Soviet Russia.”
”It is comparable?” the journalist asked.