BEIRUT – Ex-Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn has answered hundreds of questions by French investigators over the past week in Beirut and was “happy and satisfied” to have had the opportunity to explain himself over accusations of financial misconduct, his lawyers said Friday.
The four and a half days of questioning marked the first opportunity for Ghosn, a French national, to defend himself against the French allegations — including spending on lavish parties and private planes — since his 2018 bombshell arrest in Japan and escape to Lebanon a year later.
However, as Ghosn was being interrogated outside of French soil, it was unclear how he could, if at all, be handed down preliminary charges. His lawyers said they will now seek the right to ask for witnesses and expert testimony in the French investigation.
Earlier, the auto magnate-turned-fugitive told The Associated Press that he has done nothing wrong and hopes the investigations are eventually dropped. He didn't speak to reporters throughout the Beirut interrogation, which began on Monday.
It is an unusual move for French magistrates to question a suspect abroad. Ghosn, who was given sanctuary by Lebanese authorities, grew up in Lebanon and also has Lebanese citizenship. Lebanon will not extradite him. He is Brazilian-born.
Ghosn was questioned about the financing of parties he threw at the Versailles Palace as the head of the Renault-Nissan car alliance. The French investigators, in cooperation with Lebanese judicial authorities, were also examining 11 million euros in spending on private planes and events arranged by a Dutch holding company, and subsidies to a car dealership in Oman.
“It was his opportunity to explain his positions,” said Jean Yves Le Borgne, a member of Ghosn’ defense team. “It has now happened and he is satisfied and happy.”
“Still unresolved, of course, is the problem of the next step in this procedure,” Le Borgne added.
Ghosn has not so far been charged with anything in France, but could be, given preliminary accusations of fraud, corruption, money laundering, misuse of company assets, or aggravated breach of trust.
Whether Ghosn could be charged or not by the French, Carlos Abou Jaoude, his Beirut-based lawyer, said Lebanese and French authorities have to determine what Ghosn’s “status” will be.
Ghosn is campaigning to clear his name against multiple legal challenges in France after Japanese accusations triggered scrutiny of his activities there. He told the AP he had much more confidence in the French legal system than the Japanese system he had fled.
He was arrested in Japan in November 2018 on accusations of financial misconduct and was kept in solitary confinement for months without being allowed to speak with his wife. He fled to Lebanon a year later in a dramatic escape that stunned the world. Meanwhile, several associates are in jail or on trial in Japan and Turkey, in cases related to his financial activities or escape.