French justice has issued an international arrest warrant for Carlos Ghosn, former boss of the Renault Nissan alliance (RNBV) currently living in Lebanon, as part of an investigation in Nanterre, notably for misuse of company 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 in late 2019.
This international arrest warrant, issued Thursday, worthy of indictment, sends a strong message to the Lebanese authorities who are not extraditing their nationals and who have banned Carlos Ghosn from traveling. If the arrest warrant is executed, Carlos Ghosn will be presented directly to an investigating judge in Nanterre, who will inform him of the charges against him. In the viewfinder: almost 15 million euros in suspected payments between RNBV and the distributor of the French car manufacturer in Oman, Suhail Bahwan Automobiles (SBA).
In March 2022:
The investigating judge in charge of the investigation also issued four other international arrest warrants against “the current owners or former managers of the Omani company SBA,” said the Nanterre prosecutor’s office, which AFP had contacted. More specifically, the SBA founder, his two sons and the current general manager have been targeted, according to two sources familiar with the case at AFP. Justice accuses them of money laundering or corruption.
Prohibition to leave Lebanon
The judicial inquiry, opened in February 2020 by the Nanterre prosecutor’s office against X, in particular for misuse of company assets and money laundering, was indeed extended last July to the head of “corruption”. Justice also suspects Carlos Ghosn of taking personal advantage of a sponsorship deal between Renault and the branch that manages the Palace of Versailles, by organizing two private parties, which he disputes.
“It is not an arrest warrant issued by France, but by the Nanterre Court during an ongoing investigation, specifically by the parquet floor of Nanterre,” said AFP, one of Carlos Ghosn’s lawyers, Jean Tamalet, of King and Spalding. “This mandate is very surprising because the investigating judge and the Nanterre prosecutor are well aware that Carlos Ghosn, who has always worked with the judiciary, is subject to a judicial prohibition to leave Lebanese territory,” he said.
The former businessman, who holds Lebanese, French and Brazilian nationality, is the target of an Interpol arrest warrant and has been forced to remain in Lebanon since he fled to Japan in December 2019, hiding in a box of audio equipment. Arrested a year earlier in November 2018 in Tokyo, he had justified his escape by claiming “to escape injustice”, denouncing a “plot” by the Japanese authorities.
In an interview with Parisian last February, he also assured that he wanted to return to France. “For now, I can’t return” to France, Carlos Ghosn had stated, because of Interpol’s arrest warrant. “I am French, I was educated in France, I lived in France, I have a very deep connection. France is there, it remains, the governments, they pass. Of course, the day I can, I’ll go to France,” he announced.
He had also denounced the “deadly stab of the French government and Renault’s board of directors”, with the carmaker forming a civil party in the file. On Friday, Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire said on BFMTV/RMC that he would make “no comment” on the arrest warrant and called for “let the law do its job”.
To conduct their investigations, magistrates had already traveled to Beirut twice. Last February, the magistrates of Nanterre heard two witnesses there. The previous June, with magistrates from Paris, they had proceeded to the free five-day hearing of Carlos Ghosn for the investigations directed to him in Nanterre and Paris. As for the investigation in Paris, it is the advisory services of RNBV, the Dutch subsidiary that embodies the Renault-Nissan alliance, with the former French Minister of Justice Rachida Dati and the criminologist Alain Bauer, which interest the researchers.