Lebanon Orders Carlos Ghosn to Stay Put

Lebanon Orders Carlos Ghosn to Stay Put

BEIRUT, Lebanon — A day after commanding global attention with a news conference packed with reporters, Carlos Ghosn was ordered by the Lebanese attorney general to stay in the country as officials begin to consider how to treat the former executive charged with financial misconduct in Japan.

Mr. Ghosn, a fugitive who skipped bail in Japan and fled to Lebanon two weeks ago, was summoned for questioning on Thursday at the instigation of Japanese officials. The attorney general of Lebanon’s Court of Cassation, Judge Ghassan Oueidat, allowed Mr. Ghosn to keep a residency permit, but barred him from traveling outside Lebanon, according to Lebanese state media.

Mr. Ghosn’s travel options were already restricted. Interpol, the international law enforcement agency, last week issued a so-called red notice for the apprehension of Mr. Ghosn at Japan’s request. A red notice is simply a request for help, and countries can act as they wish, but it raised the threat of arrest whenever he traveled.

Until Mr. Ghosn slipped out of Japan on Dec. 29, evading what was supposed to be the close surveillance required by his bail conditions, Japan was set to put him on trial on charges of financial misconduct during his tenure as the head of a global auto alliance including Nissan, Renault and Mitsubishi.

Representatives of Mr. Ghosn could not be reached Thursday.

In his news conference on Wednesday, a defiant Mr. Ghosn denied all the charges against him, saying he had documents that would prove his innocence. He assailed the Japanese justice system for what he described as its inhumane treatment of him as a defendant and accused his former colleagues at Nissan of framing him.

Though free of Japanese court dates and prison cells, Mr. Ghosn is now confined to a small country where his only known business interest is a winery.

At least many in that country seem to be rooting for him. He has long been lionized in Lebanon for his success abroad, and Mr. Ghosn met with some top officials soon after reaching Beirut.

Arriving in a country gripped by economic and political tumult, Mr. Ghosn’s name has been floated for everything from president to central bank governor.

On Thursday, Walid Jumblatt, the leader of the Druze religious minority and a powerful politician, was the latest to posit Mr. Ghosn as a savior of sorts. He tweeted, perhaps sarcastically, in French that appointing Mr. Ghosn as minister of energy “would be a good idea.”

He also said, with apparent approval, that Mr. Ghosn had “transformed from a victim into a defender of justice.”

For now, Mr. Ghosn has put a measure of distance between himself and Japanese prosecutors; Lebanon does not have an extradition treaty with Japan, and neither do France and Brazil, the other two countries where he holds citizenship.

Lebanese officials have proposed that Japan pursue its charges against Mr. Ghosn in Lebanese courts, and Mr. Oueidat’s office is awaiting a request from Japan to take further action on Mr. Ghosn’s case.

But Japan may not entrust its charges to the Lebanese justice system. It is unclear what will happen to the case if Japan does not do so.

On Thursday, Lebanese prosecutors also asked Mr. Ghosn about having visited Israel, which Lebanese law forbids its citizens from doing.

But a Lebanese lawyer, Diala Chehade, said on Thursday that because more than 10 years had passed since Mr. Ghosn’s 2008 trip to Israel, the statute of limitations had already passed. As for the Japanese financial charges, she said, experience had taught her not to wait for a quick resolution.

“In Lebanon’s bureaucracy, Ghosn’s case will take at least a year, going back and forth,” she said.

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