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French justice issues an international arrest warrant against Carlos Ghosn, who claims his innocence

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LFrench justice has issued an international arrest warrant against Carlos Ghosn, the former boss of the Renault Nissan alliance who currently lives in Lebanon and claimed his innocence on Friday, faced with suspicions of misuse of corporate assets, money laundering and corruption.

The 68-year-old Franco-Lebanese-Brazilian, who was to be tried in Tokyo for financial embezzlement, has lived in Beirut since his incredible flight from Japan at the end of 2019.

The warrant issued Thursday, as part of an investigation in Nanterre and which is worth indictment, is a strong message sent to the Lebanese authorities, who do not extradite their nationals and have banned Mr. Ghosn from traveling. If this mandate is executed, the ex-CEO will be presented to an examining magistrate in Nanterre who will notify him of his indictment.

In the sights of justice?: Nearly 15 million euros in payments considered suspicious between RNBV, the Dutch subsidiary embodying the Renault-Nissan alliance, and the distributor of the French car manufacturer in Oman, Suhail Bahwan Automobiles (SBA).

In addition to the one targeting Carlos Ghosn, the investigating judge in charge of the investigation issued four international arrest warrants against the founder of SBA, the latter’s two sons and the former general manager, according to two sources familiar with the matter. .

Justice accuses them of acts of money laundering or corruption.

The judicial investigation, opened against X in February 2020 by the Nanterre prosecutor’s office, in particular for abuse of corporate assets and money laundering, was extended last July to the head of “corruption”.

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? “No diversion”?

“There was absolutely no misappropriation, all amounts that have been paid to this distributor are based on confirmed contracts, proven performances, requests made by Renault and Nissan sales managers,” said Friday evening Carlos Ghosn at the microphone of BFM TV.

“Not a penny from Renault or Nissan was unduly given to me, directly or indirectly (…) If there was evidence, it would have already leaked to the press” added Mr. Ghosn, who also denies to have “been remunerated by the distributor of Oman in (his) qualification as boss of Renault and Nissan”.

The Renault group, a civil party since February 2020 in this case and which had never spoken until now, “takes note of the decision of the magistrates”, told AFP its lawyer, Me Kami Haeri.

“This is a major step which can be explained by the seriousness of the new facts which have been brought to light following meticulous investigations bringing to light hidden financial relations involving several million euros between Carlos Ghosn and the founders and SBA executives,” he added.

In this case, the courts also suspect Mr. Ghosn of having personally benefited from a sponsorship agreement between Renault and the establishment managing the Château de Versailles, by organizing two private parties there, which he disputes.

For his part, the founder of the Omani company SBA, Suhail Bahwan, “formally denies having taken part, in any way whatsoever, in the offenses covered by the arrest warrant” issued against him by the Nanterre court, said told AFP his lawyer, Christophe Ingrain.

? “Nightmare” ?

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Targeted by a Japanese arrest warrant, and by an Interpol red notice at the request of Japan, Carlos Ghosn has been forced to stay in Lebanon since he fled the Japanese archipelago in December 2019, hidden in a box of sound equipment.

“We seem to consider that I am free (…) I depend on Lebanese justice, it is she who forbids me to leave the territory”, recalled the former big boss, who hopes “to be able one day come France” and “that good cooperation between France and Lebanon will eventually put an end to this nightmare”.

Revered in Lebanon as a business giant, he lectures at the Holy Spirit University of Kaslik (USEK), near Beirut, but is discreet in the media.

Arrested in Tokyo in November 2018, he justified his escape by claiming to have wanted to “escape injustice” and by denouncing a “plot” by the Japanese authorities.

To carry out their investigations, French magistrates had already traveled twice to Beirut.

Last February, the magistrates of Nanterre interviewed two witnesses there. In the previous June, they had proceeded, with magistrates from Paris, to the free hearing of Mr. Ghosn for five days, for the investigations targeting him in Nanterre and Paris.

The investigation in Paris is interested in the consulting services concluded by RNBV with the former French Minister of Justice Rachida Dati and the criminologist Alain Bauer. In this case “which is ongoing”, “no arrest warrant” has been issued against Mr. Ghosn, a judicial source told AFP.

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22/04/2022 20:37:42 – Nanterre (AFP) – © 2022 AFP

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