Japan issues Interpol wanted notice for Carlos Ghosn

Japanese authorities have issued an Interpol wanted notice for Carlos Ghosn, the former Nissan and Renault chairman who dramatically fled corruption charges in Japan.

The so-called red notice, issued via international policing organisation Interpol, alerts police forces around the world that a person is wanted, in this case by Japanese police.

However, Interpol does not have any powers to force its members to comply with a red notice and it is not an arrest warrant. Lebanon’s justice minister confirmed the notice had been received in an interview with the Associated Press.

Ghosn on Tuesday revealed he had arrived in Beirut, the Lebanese capital, after complaining that he had been “held hostage by a rigged Japanese justice system”.

His flight has sparked multiple investigations into how the former corporate titan evaded supervision to leave Japan on a private jet, stop briefly at Turkey’s Atatürk airport and then fly to Beirut.

Officials from the Tokyo district public prosecutors office raided Ghosn’s former residence in Tokyo on Thursday to look for evidence.

In Turkey, seven people were arrested on Thursday as part of investigations. The state-run Anadolu Agency said the people, who are suspected of aiding Ghosn, included four pilots, two ground handling employees and the operations manager of a private cargo company.

The arrest of Ghosn in Lebanon is considered unlikely, given his political connections in Lebanon, one of three countries which have previously granted him a passport, along with Brazil and France. Ghosn was born in Brazil to Lebanese parents and studied in France before leading tyre manufacturer Michelin and carmaker Renault.

Lebanon has already indicated Ghosn entered the country legally using a French passport and Lebanese ID. Ghosn’s arrival in Beirut’s Rafic Hariri airport was aided by Lebanese state officials who were instructed by political leaders to smooth his arrival, the Guardian previously reported.

Ghosn made his reputation as executive first of Renault, before becoming the architect of an alliance with Nissan and later Mitsubishi that was the world’s second largest carmaker in 2018, with 10.76m vehicles sold.

However, his corporate downfall came in November 2018, when he was arrested in Tokyo on charges of underreporting his income by $80m. He was also accused of using Nissan company property for personal gain. Ghosn paid a $1m fine in September to settle similar fraud charges with the US Securities and Exchange Commission.

He had been the subject of 24-hour surveillance in a court-mandated residence in Tokyo since being granted bail in April 2019. Tokyo authorities have revoked Ghosn’s bail, Japanese media reported, meaning he will forfeit ¥1.5bn (£10.3m).

According to Reuters, Ghosn decided to flee Japan after learning his trial had been delayed until April 2021 and also because he had not been allowed to speak to his wife over Christmas.

He is also said to have been unnerved by news that his daughter and son had been questioned by Japanese prosecutors in the US in early December. Ghosn was convinced authorities were looking to force a confession from him by putting pressure on his family.

Japanese public broadcaster NHK said on Thursday that Ghosn had been issued with a spare French passport, which he had been allowed to carry with him in a locked briefcase while out on bail. According to NHK, the key to the locked briefcase was held by Ghosn’s lawyers.

Ghosn’s representatives have so far declined to give details of how he made a dramatic escape that would have almost certainly required the help of multiple people, as well as considerable financial resources. He has pledged to hold a press conference next week.

Despite the red notice, the 65-year-old is unlikely to face extradition from Lebanon, which does not have a treaty with Japan. The French government also indicated on Thursday it would not send him to Japan.

“If Mr Ghosn arrived in France, we will not extradite Mr Ghosn because France never extradites its nationals,” the junior economy minister, Agnès Pannier-Runacher, told France’s BFM news channel.

France would “apply the same rules to Mr Ghosn as to the man in the street”, she said.

However, Ghosn’s status as head of major carmakers in Japan and France allowed him to call upon connections unavailable to most people. Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy met him in Tokyo as recently as October, while Lebanon authorities had been pressing for Ghosn to face trial in their country, where he would probably face a friendlier justice system.

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