BEIRUT — Japan's deputy justice minister met top officials in Lebanon on Monday over the case of Nissan's fugitive ex-boss, Carlos Ghosn, who fled to his home country late last year while on bail in Japan and awaiting trial.
Ghosn was arrested in late 2018 and is facing charges of under-reporting income and breach of trust. He says he is innocent. He led Nissan for nearly 20 years.
State Minister of Justice Hiroyuki Yoshiie (pictured above with Lebanese Justice Minister Marie Claude Najm) met President Michel Aoun as well as the Lebanese minister of foreign affairs. Yoshiie did not speak to reporters after the meetings and is scheduled to hold a news conference later in the day.
Aoun's office said in a tweet after the meeting that they discussed mutual relations and ways of developing them "in addition to matters that are of interest for 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 vowed to defend his name wherever he can get a fair trial.
On Friday, Japan's Justice Minister Masako Mori said she was dispatching the official to Beirut to explain the Japanese justice system and improve cooperation. She said Japan hoped Lebanon would gain "a proper understanding of the Japanese criminal justice system."
Japan and Lebanon do not have an extradition treaty, and it's unlikely Lebanon would agree to send Ghosn, considered a Lebanese national hero, back to Japan to face trial.
Mori acknowledged that there were "various environments" and laws that underpin each country's stance.
Nissan, maker of the Leaf electric car and Z sports car, said in a statement regarding the justice official’s trip that it hoped Ghosn would return to Japan to stand trial, "so that all the facts can be properly established under Japan’s judicial system."
Having spent months in detention and struggling to gain his release on bail under stringent conditions, Ghosn said he fled in the belief he could not get a fair trial in Japan.
Japan has requested Ghosn’s return through Interpol and issued an arrest warrant after his escape. Lebanese prosecutors issued a travel ban for Ghosn in January and asked him to hand in his French passport following the Interpol-issued notice against him.
Nissan’s sales have plunged recently, and it sank into losses for the last fiscal quarter. The brand is widely considered to have been tarnished by the controversy around Ghosn.
Last month, Nissan filed a civil damage lawsuit against its fugitive ex-chief, seeking 10 billion yen ($90 million) in damages. The claim added the costs of what Nissan called Ghosn’s "corrupt practices," such as rent for overseas property, use of corporate jets and payments for the internal investigation into wrongdoing.