Carlos Ghosn says he expects a fair trial in France after the arrest warrant

Former Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn is in an ongoing legal battle amid allegations of financial misconduct.

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Carlos Ghosn has said he will receive a ‘fair trial’ in France after receiving an arrest warrant in connection with the latest in a series of charges against the disgraced former car executive.

Speaking to CNBC on Friday in Beirut, Ghosn said he trusted the French justice system to treat him properly, even if he didn’t receive the same treatment from the media and society at large.

“I think yes, I can get a fair trial,” he told CNBC’s Hadley Gamble.

“I won’t get a fair deal, but I will get a fair trial,” he said, citing seemingly disproportionate media coverage of lavish parties and overspending during his tenure as auto CEO .

French authorities on Thursday issued an international arrest warrant for the former Renault-Nissan executive, who refused bail in Japan and fled to Lebanon in a box.

The warrant relates to an investigation into allegations of 15 million euros ($16.2 million) in suspicious payments between Renault and an Omani car dealership during Ghosn’s tenure. The allegations relate to the misappropriation of company assets, corruption and money laundering.

Four others, including current owners or former directors of Suhail Bahwan Automobiles, have also received arrest warrants.

It is the latest in a series of charges against the former auto industry leader, who was first arrested in Japan in November 2018 and charged with multiple financial misdeeds while he ran Nissan. Ghosn denies all the charges.

“Suspicious” moment

Ghosn said on Friday he was not surprised by the arrest warrant, describing it as part of the “natural process” for French investigators. However, he said he was surprised to learn this, not from the authorities, but from a newspaper.

“What surprised me was the fact that I learned about it by reading in an American newspaper,” he said, referring to The Wall Street Journal, which broke the news on Thursday.

Ghosn added that the timing of the mandate was “suspicious”, given the upcoming French presidential elections on Sunday.

President Emmanuel Macron and his far-right rival Marine Le Pen have taken tough stances on CEO pay ahead of Sunday’s presidential run-off, as public scrutiny of the pay of top French bosses simmers. intensifies. The French state is also Renault’s largest shareholder.

Asked about the timing of the arrest warrant, he said he could not speculate.

“I don’t know. I can’t speculate on that. Frankly, the timing is more than suspicious. You know, why do you want to do it today? Why do it on Friday? Why can’t you do it? Monday, It’s something that’s been going on for years,” he said.

Spokespersons for the French Ministry of Justice and the French government were not immediately available when contacted by CNBC for comment.

Nonetheless, Ghosn said he expects any hearing to be independent, regardless of the winner.

“Fortunately in France, justice is somehow independent of political power, which is obviously not the case in Japan,” he said. Ghosn has repeatedly criticized Japan’s justice system as it continues to prosecute him for alleged financial crimes during his tenure as head of Nissan.

Japanese officials, meanwhile, have refuted Ghosn’s claims, defending the country’s justice system as “fair and open”. Japan’s Ministry of Justice published a 3,000-word article in 2020 outlining questions and answers about its treatment of criminals. A spokesperson for Japan’s Justice Department was not immediately available when contacted by CNBC for comment.

Ghosn’s spokesman said earlier Friday that he would be happy to stand trial in France to clear his name. Yet the feasibility of this remains uncertain.

Ghosn is banned from leaving Lebanon as he is still subject to an extradition request from Japan. Although this request is unlikely to be approved, his passport is currently held by the Lebanese authorities.

The Brazilian-born auto titan grew up in Beirut and is a citizen of Brazil, France and Lebanon.
As a Lebanese citizen, he is protected against extradition.

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