January 8, 2020 / 2:20 PM / 16 days ago

Ghosn says can help Lebanon as gets prosecutor summons

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Ex-Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn has been summoned for questioning by a Lebanese public prosecutor over an Interpol notice issued by Japan calling for his arrest on financial misconduct charges after he fled last month ahead of his trial.

Ghosn said on Wednesday he was ready to stay for a long time in Lebanon, which does not allow the extradition of its nationals, and a source close to the 65-year-old has said his legal team is pushing for him to be tried in the country.

The prosecutor is also due on Thursday to hear a statement by Ghosn relating to a legal complaint over a visit Ghosn made to Israel as chief executive of the Renault-Nissan alliance in 2008, Lebanon’s state news agency said.

Ghosn, whose assets in Lebanon include stakes in a bank and a winery, said during a news conference in Beirut he had escaped to Lebanon, his childhood home, to clear his name and was ready to stand trial anywhere he could get a fair hearing.

Lebanese officials have said there would be no need to take legal measures against Ghosn because he entered the country legally on a French passport, although Ghosn’s French, Lebanese and Brazilian passports are with lawyers in Japan.

On Tuesday, Japan’s ambassador to Lebanon requested greater cooperation from President Michel Aoun in dealing in the case.

Three sources close to Ghosn have said he met Aoun after fleeing Japan. During Wednesday’s news conference, Ghosn declined to say with whom he had met in Lebanon.

A meeting between Aoun and Ghosn has not been made public and a media adviser to the president’s office denied the two men had met. The sources said specifics of the meeting were described to them by Ghosn.

Ghosn said of a complaint submitted by a group of Lebanese lawyers over a visit he made to Israel that he made the trip as a French citizen and an executive of Renault to sign a contract with a state-backed Israeli firm to sell electric vehicles.

“I was obliged to go because the board asked me to go because they deemed me French and the director of a French company,” he said.

During the visit, Ghosn met Israel’s former prime minister Ehud Olmert, who was premier at the time of the 2006 war between Israel and the Iran-backed Lebanese group Hezbollah.

Nearly 1,200 Lebanese, mostly civilians, died in the 2006 war and 158 people died in Israel, mostly soldiers.

“Of course I apologize for the visit and I was very moved that the Lebanese people were affected by it. The last thing I wanted to do was hurt the Lebanese people,” Ghosn said.

He also offered to use his expertise to help Lebanon, if asked, as it grapples with a financial crisis, although “not as a politician”.

“I am today proud to be Lebanese and if there is any country in the world that stood by me in these difficulties it is Lebanon,” Ghosn added.

Reporting by Samia Nakhoul, Nadine Awadalla, Laila Bassam, Eric Knecht; Writing by Tom Perry; Editing by Alexander Smith and Philippa Fletcher

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