By Simon Bouvier, Xiaofei Xu, Chris Liakos and Anna Cooban, CNN Business
France has issued an arrest warrant for Carlos Ghosn, the fugitive auto executive who used to lead Renault-Nissan.
The prosecutor’s office in Nanterre, near Paris, confirmed to CNN on Friday that it had issued an international arrest warrant for Ghosn, who now lives in Lebanon, and the owners of Suhail Bahwan Automobiles, an Omani vehicle distributor.
“The judge overseeing the case has issued five international arrest warrants against M. Carlos Ghosn and the current owners or former leaders of the Omani company SBA,” a spokesperson for the prosecutor’s office said in a statement.
French media, including CNN affiliate BFMTV, reported the warrant relates to more than 15 million euros ($16.3 million) in alleged suspicious payments between Renault-Nissan and SBA.
The prosecutor’s office told CNN the warrant targets many facts and “concerns offenses that may be charged in the context of the entire case currently under investigation.”
SBA did not respond to a request for comment outside normal working hours.
Ghosn has always denied allegations of financial misconduct at the automotive giant and said he fled house arrest in Japan in 2019 — where he faced charges of filing false financial statements — because he did not believe he would receive a fair trial.
Ghosn’s lawyer Jean Tamalet, a partner at firm King & Spalding, told CNN Business in a statement Friday that the warrant was “surprising.”
“The investigating judge and the Nanterre prosecutor know perfectly well that Carlos Ghosn, who has always cooperated with the French justice authorities, is subject to a judicial ban on leaving the Lebanese territory,” he said.
“We believe this move is the only technical resort they found to be able in the future to try the case in a court of law.”
Ghosn, the former chairman and CEO of the auto alliance, was arrested in Japan in 2018 after an internal company investigation alleged “significant acts of misconduct” during his tenure, including accusations that he had understated his income.
In December 2019, while awaiting trial, Ghosn — who has French, Lebanese and Brazilian citizenship — mounted a stunning escape from Japan to Lebanon, a country where he spent time as a child. Lebanon does not extradite its citizens.
The former auto boss has said that he is willing to face trial outside of Japan.
Ghosn confirmed to the BBC in July 2021 that he had left the country on a private plane while hiding inside a box normally used for audio equipment.
“I didn’t leave Japan to hide somewhere,” Ghosn told CNN’s Richard Quest in an interview in January 2020. “I left Japan because I’m looking for justice and I want to clear my name,”
“Freedom, no matter the way it happens, is always sweet,” he added.
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