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Former Nissan head Carlos Ghosn, facing trial in Japan, has flown to Lebanon

Dec 31. 2019
Carlos Ghosn, former chairman of Nissan Motor Co., sits in a vehicle as he leaves his lawyer's office in Tokyo on March 6, 2019. MUST CREDIT: Bloomberg photo by Takaaki Iwabu.
Carlos Ghosn, former chairman of Nissan Motor Co., sits in a vehicle as he leaves his lawyer's office in Tokyo on March 6, 2019. MUST CREDIT: Bloomberg photo by Takaaki Iwabu.
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By Syndication Washington Post, Bloomberg News · Ania Nussbaum, Kae Inoue 

Carlos Ghosn, the executive whose shocking arrest in Japan ended a more than two-decade run overseeing two of the world's largest automakers, left the country where he's awaited trial and is now in Lebanon, according to people familiar with the matter.

The former head of Nissan Motor Co. and Renault SA arrived in Beirut early this week, according to one of the people, who asked not to be identified ahead of the release of a public statement. The person said he fled Japan, where he has been under house arrest since April.

Ghosn was facing trial in Japan for alleged financial misconduct at Nissan. Japanese prosecutors and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission both claim he and Nissan violated pay-disclosure rules by being compensated $140 million more than the company reported to shareholders.

Ghosn's arrival in Lebanon, where he has citizenship, marks a stunning development in a saga that started with his arrest in November 2018. The 65-year-old has denied wrongdoing, saying he's been the victim of a conspiracy by Nissan executives and Japanese government officials to prevent him from further integrating the company with Renault.

Ghosn fled Japan because he doesn't believe he will get a fair trial in the country, said one of the people familiar with the matter. Ghosn's attorney in Japan didn't immediately respond to a phone call seeking comment.

Ghosn, a globetrotter who for years was a regular at events frequented by the rich and famous - including the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland - was released on bail in April under the condition that he live at a registered address and not leave Japan.

The strict terms of his release were designed to prevent him from absconding. He wasn't permitted to spend more than one night away from his house without a judge's permission. A video camera was trained on his front door, allowing the Tokyo prosecutor's office to keep tabs on visitors. And at the end of each month, Ghosn was required to provide a list of everyone he'd met.

Around town, the former executive was tailed by unmarked sedans. At parks or restaurants, men would get out of the cars and follow him on foot.

History shows beating a criminal charge in Japan is exceedingly difficult. The courts have a nearly 100% conviction rate. Prosecutors there enjoy a range of procedural advantages unavailable to Western counterparts. In many cases, the prosecution can introduce evidence obtained without a proper warrant.

Japan has extradition treaties with the U.S. and South Korea, according to the foreign ministry's website.

The Lebanese newspaper L'Orient-Le Jour reported earlier on Ghosn's arrival in Beirut, the capital of his parents' homeland. It said the newspaper al-Joumhouriya first carried the news, reporting that Ghosn arrived on a private jet from Turkey.

Ghosn also faces breach-of-trust charges related to transactions that transferred personal investment losses to Nissan, and that moved money from a dealership in Oman into a company he controls in Lebanon.

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