BEIRUT (REUTERS) - French investigating judges started questioning fugitive former car executive Carlos Ghosn in Beirut on Monday (May 31), in hearings that are expected to last until June 4.
The architect of the Renault-Nissan auto alliance has been fighting multiple probes since fleeing to Lebanon in late 2019 and has said he hopes to clear his name in financial misconduct cases against him.
The French allegations concern financial misconduct in France. Monday’s hearing started at 10:00 am local time and is still ongoing. Ghosn’s defence team said it had identified procedural irregularities in the French case which undermine the legal proceedings that are being organised by Lebanese judicial authorities.
The lawyers said in a statement Ghosn – who had previously lived and worked in France and has French, Lebanese and Brazilian citizenship – would be heard as a witness and so cannot dispute the legality of the procedure.
The statement said the team was calling for Ghosn “to be afforded the status of ‘indicted’, as only this would allow him to challenge the legal flaws surrounding the case”.
Ghosn, who has repeatedly denied wrongdoing in all cases against him, was chairman of both Nissan and Mitsubishi and chief executive of Renault when he was arrested in Japan in 2018 on charges of under-reporting his salary and using company funds for personal purposes.
He fled to Lebanon in December 2019 hidden in carry-on luggage on a private jet that flew out of Kansai Airport, and has remained in that country since.
In France, Ghosn is at loggerheads with his former employer Renault over pension and severance payments he argues are due, and tax authorities have looked into his fiscal arrangements.
The French magistrates in Lebanon are pursuing questions about events thrown by Ghosn at the sumptuous Palace of Versailles, including whether in one case he knowingly used company resources to host a party that was for private purposes.
The French prosecutor’s office is also looking into financial flows between Renault, its Dutch affiliate and a car dealership in Oman.
Ghosn suffered a setback last week in one of his legal cases when a Dutch court ordered him to repay 5 million euros (S$8.06 million) in wages to Nissan and Mitsubishi in a case he had brought.