Najia Houssari, Beirut
Lebanese Minister of Justice Albert Serhan told Arab News Japan on Wednesday that Japan has not filed an official extradition request for former Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn, who fled Japan for Lebanon via Turkey on December 30.
Ghosn, a Brazilian-born French businessman of Lebanese ancestry, was arrested in Japan in November 2018 over allegations that he had under-reported his earnings and misused company assets. He was re-arrested under new charges of misappropriation of funds while out on bail in April. Ghosn has broken the terms of his bail by fleeing to Lebanon.
Serhan said: “Ghosn has Lebanese citizenship, and — according to the principles and laws — is thus treated as a Lebanese citizen. According to our applicable laws, a Lebanese man will be tried before Lebanese courts unless there is an extradition treaty, and there is none between Lebanon and Japan. In any case, we will not jump to conclusions. Until now, the Japanese government has not sent any request to have him returned.”
Lebanon accepted an extradition request from the US earlier this year, despite the fact that it has no extradition treaty with America. Ali Salameh, who holds dual Lebanese and American citizenship and was accused of kidnapping his four-year-old son from the United States and taking him to Lebanon following a dispute with his wife over his custody, was handed over the to FBI. However, Serhan stressed: “That man had dual citizenship. Carlos Ghosn does not have Japanese citizenship. Every case is different.”
Asked whether Ghosn fleeing to Lebanon would affect Lebanese-Japanese relations, Serhan said: “We hope (not). If principles are followed and laws are respected, this case cannot affect the relations between the two countries.”
He stressed that Lebanon is keen to maintain good relations with all countries, and that it respects international law. “Lebanon needs Japan, which is one of the largest economies, and it provides us with assistance,” he said. “We hope that Japan understands, especially with regard to Lebanese laws.”
Ghosn is believed to be planning a press conference in Beirut on January 8, saying in a statement on New Year’s Eve, “I can now finally communicate freely with the media and look forward to starting next week.”
Serhan said that Ghosn could hold the press conference but only if he did not damage relations between Lebanon and Japan.
“Ghosn is a Lebanese citizen who enjoys (the same rights as all citizens),” Serhan said. “He may hold his press conference as long as he does not criticize any state and does not affect relations between our two countries.”
The Lebanese Foreign Ministry stressed in a statement that it wishes to maintain “the best relations with the Japanese State,” but added that Ghosn entered Lebanon “in a legal manner.”
The ministry explained that, a year ago, Lebanon sent a number of official communiqués to the Japanese government in relation to Ghosn’s case, but no response was received. During the visit of Japanese State Minister for Foreign Affairs Keisuke Suzuki to Lebanon a few days ago, a complete file on the case was handed to the Lebanese government.
During Suzuki’s visit — the first by a Japanese state minister to Lebanon in three years — he said: “Japan believes that peace and stability in Lebanon is of great importance for the entirety of the Middle East and, therefore, Japan is committed to supporting Lebanon.”