BEIRUT — Interpol issued a wanted notice Thursday for former Nissan Chairman Carlos Ghosn, who jumped bail in Japan and fled to Lebanon rather than face trial on financial misconduct charges in a dramatic escape that has confounded and embarrassed authorities.
Lebanese Justice Minister Albert Serhan told The Associated Press in an interview that Lebanon “will carry out its duties,” suggesting for the first time that the automotive titan may be brought in for questioning. But he said Ghosn entered the country on a legal passport, and he appeared to cast doubt on the possibility Lebanon would hand Ghosn over to Japan.
The Interpol notice is the latest twist in Ghosn’s daring escape, which spanned three continents and involved private planes, multiple passports and international intrigue. Turkey made several arrests Thursday as part of an investigation into how he passed through the country.
Ghosn’s arrival in Lebanon jolted the nation, already in the midst of a crippling political impasse and its worst economic crisis in decades.
Lebanon must now decide how to deal with the Interpol-issued Red Notice, which is a non-binding request to law enforcement agencies worldwide that they locate and provisionally arrest a fugitive. A Red Notice is not an arrest warrant and does not require Lebanon to arrest Ghosn.
Shortly afterward, Ghosn issued a statement — his second this week — seeking to distance his Lebanese wife and family from any role in his escape.
“The allegations in the media that my wife Carole and other members of my family played a role in my departure from Japan are false and misleading. I alone organized my departure. My family played no role,” he said.
Ghosn, who is Lebanese and also holds French and Brazilian passports, was set to go on trial in Japan in April. He arrived in Lebanon on Monday via Turkey and hasn’t been seen in public since. In a statement Tuesday, he said he fled to avoid “political persecution” by a “rigged Japanese justice system.”
How he was able to flee Japan, avoiding the tight surveillance he was under while free on 1.5 billion yen ($14 million) bail, is still a mystery, though Lebanese authorities have said he entered the country legally on a French passport.
Ghosn, who grew up in Beirut and frequently visited, is a national hero to many in this Mediterranean country with close ties to senior politicians and business stakes in a number of companies. People take special pride in the auto industry executive, who is credited with leading a spectacular turnaround at Nissan beginning in the late 1990s and rescuing the automaker from near-bankruptcy.
Even as he fell from grace internationally, politicians across the board mobilized in his defense after his arrest in Japan in November 2018, with some suggesting his detention may be part of a political or business-motivated conspiracy.
Serhan said prosecutors will summon Ghosn and listen to him, and “at a later stage if there are any measures to be taken, then the precautionary measures will be taken.”
“We are a country of law and respect the law and ... I can confirm that the Lebanese state will implement the law,” the justice minister said.
At the same time, Serhan said that Lebanon has not received an official extradition request from Japan, and he noted that the two countries do not have an extradition treaty.
Ghosn, who is charged in Japan with under-reporting his future compensation and breach of trust, has repeatedly asserted his innocence, saying authorities trumped up charges to prevent a possible fuller merger between Nissan Motor Co. and Renault.