Carlos Ghosn, former CEO of Nissan, is in an ongoing legal battle amid accusations of financial dishonesty.
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Carlos Ghosn has said he would receive a “fair trial” in France after being issued an arrest warrant in the latest by a series of charges brought against the disgraced former car boss.
In a speech to CNBC on Friday in Beirut, Ghosn said he trusted the French legal system would treat him properly even if he did not receive the same treatment from the media and the wider community.
“I think, yes, I can get a fair trial,” he told CNBC’s Hadley Gamble.
“I will not get fair treatment, but I will get a fair trial,” he said, citing the media’s seemingly disproportionate coverage of lavish parties and exorbitant expenses during his tenure as auto CEO.
French authorities on Thursday issued an international arrest warrant for the former Renault-Nissan director, who famously failed bail in Japan and fled to Lebanon in a box.
The order relates to an investigation into allegations of 15 million euros ($ 16.2 million) in suspicious payments between Renault and an Omani car dealer during Ghosn’s tenure. The charges involve misappropriation of the company’s assets, corruption and money laundering.
Four others, including current owners or former directors of Suhail Bahwan Automobiles, were also issued with arrest warrants.
It is the latest in a series of indictments filed against the former automotive industry chief, who was first arrested in Japan in November 2018 and charged with several financial misdemeanors while driving a Nissan. Ghosn denies all charges.
Ghosn said Friday he was not surprised by the arrest warrant, describing it as part of the “natural process” for French investigators. He said, however, that he was surprised to hear about it, not from the authorities, but in 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 ruling was “suspicious”, given the upcoming French presidential election this Sunday.
Both President Emmanuel Macron and his far-right rival Marine Le Pen have taken tough stances on CEO salaries ahead of Sunday’s presidential election as public control over the remuneration of France’s top executives intensifies. The French government is also the largest shareholder in Renault.
When asked about the timing of the arrest warrant, he said he could not speculate.
“I do not know. I can not speculate. Honestly, the timing is more than suspicious. You know, why do you want to do it today? Why do it on Friday? Why can not you do it on Monday, I mean? It is something that has lasted for years, “he said.
Spokesmen for the French Ministry of Justice, the French government and the court of justice in Nanterre – which is leading the investigation – were not immediately available when contacted by CNBC for comment.
Nevertheless, Ghosn said he expects any hearing to be independent, regardless of who wins.
“Fortunately, in France, justice is somehow independent of political power, which is clearly not the case in Japan,” he said. Ghosn has repeatedly criticized the Japanese legal system as it continues to prosecute him for alleged financial misconduct during his time at the helm of Nissan.
Japanese officials, meanwhile, have dismissed Ghosn’s claims and defended the country’s legal 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 spokesman for the Japanese Ministry of Justice 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 it is still in doubt.
Ghosn is barred from leaving Lebanon as he is still subject to an extradition request from Japan. Although the request is unlikely to be approved, his passport is currently in the possession of Lebanese authorities.
The Brazil-born auto-titan grew up in Beirut and is a citizen of Brazil, France and Lebanon.
As a Lebanese citizen, he is protected from extradition.