Carlos Ghosn said he expects a fair trial in France after the arrest warrant

Carlos Ghosn, the former CEO of Nissan, is locked in an ongoing legal battle amid allegations of financial misconduct.

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Carlos Ghosn has said he will get a “fair trial” in France after an arrest warrant was issued in the latest in a string of charges against the former auto industry chief.

Ghosn, speaking to CNBC Friday in Beirut, said he trusted the French justice system to treat him properly, even if he did not receive the same treatment from the media and wider society.

“I think yes, I can have a fair trial,” he told Lahdley Gamble on CNBC.

“I won’t get fair treatment, but I will get a fair trial,” he said, citing seemingly disproportionate media coverage of lavish parties and excessive spending during his tenure as auto CEO.

French authorities on Thursday issued an international arrest warrant for the former Renault-Nissan CEO who skipped bail in Japan and… They fled to Lebanon in a box.

It concerns an investigation into allegations of suspicious payments worth 15 million euros ($16.2 million) between Renault and an Omani car dealership during Ghosn’s tenure. The allegations include embezzlement of company assets, corruption and money laundering.

Arrest warrants have also been issued for four others, including the current owners and former directors of Suhail Bahwan Automobiles.

These are the latest in a string of charges against the former automaker, who was first arrested in Japan in November 2018 and charged with multiple financial charges while managing Nissan. Ghosn denied all charges against him.

“suspicious” timing

On Friday, Ghosn said he was not surprised by the arrest warrant, describing it as part of the “normal process” for French investigators. However, he said he was surprised to find out, not from the authorities, but in a newspaper.

“What surprised me was the fact that I learned about it through reading in an American newspaper,” he said, referring to The Wall Street Journal, who published the news Thursday.

Ghosn added that the timing of the memo was “suspicious” in light of the upcoming French presidential elections on Sunday.

Both President Emmanuel Macron and his far-right rival Marine Le Pen took tough stances on CEO pay in the run-up to Sunday’s presidential run-off as public scrutiny over the bonuses of France’s top bosses intensified. 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 don’t know. I can’t speculate on that. Honestly, the timing is more than fishy. You know, why would you want to do that today? Why do you do that on Friday? Why don’t you do it on Monday, I mean, that’s something that’s been going on for years,” he said.

Spokespeople for the French Ministry of Justice and the French government were not immediately available when contacted by CNBC for comment.

However, Ghosn said he expects any hearing to be independent, regardless of who wins.

“Fortunately in France, justice is more or less independent of political power, and this is clearly not the case in Japan,” he said. Ghosn has repeatedly criticized the Japanese legal system as he continues to be prosecuted for alleged financial crimes during his tenure at Nissan.

Meanwhile, Japanese officials have refuted Ghosn’s allegations, and defended the country’s justice system 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 spokesperson for Japan’s Ministry of Justice was not immediately available when contacted by CNBC for comment.

Ghosn’s spokesman said earlier on Friday that he would be glad to be tried in France to clear his name. However, the feasibility of this is still questionable.

Ghosn is banned from leaving Lebanon because he is still subject to an extradition request from Japan. Although this request is unlikely to be granted, his passport is currently held by the Lebanese authorities.

The Brazilian-born auto giant was raised in Beirut and is a native of Brazil, France and Lebanon.
As a Lebanese citizen, he is protected from extradition.

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