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Nissan's Ghosn crisis

Lebanon president denies Beirut role in Ghosn escape

Aoun promises Japanese ambassador full cooperation

Lebanese President Michel Aoun, left, and Japanese Ambassador to Lebanon Takeshi Okubo met Tuesday to discuss Carlos Ghosn's escape.   © AP

BEIRUT -- Lebanon will fully cooperate with Japan's government in dealing with former Nissan Motor Chairman Carlos Ghosn's escape, President Michel Aoun told the Japanese ambassador Tuesday.

Aoun said that Beirut had no involvement in Ghosn's escape, according to a statement from Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs on the president's meeting with Ambassador Takeshi Okubo.

Lebanese authorities are expected to question Ghosn after a "red notice" seeking his arrest was issued by Interpol.

But the fugitive auto industry veteran, who was on bail in Japan ahead of a trial on charges of misusing Nissan money, appears unlikely to be detained in Lebanon.

The Lebanese government has stood behind Ghosn, with some reports saying that he met with Aoun shortly after his arrival. Lebanese officials have said that Ghosn entered the country legally.

Japan has no extradition treaty with Lebanon, and Lebanese Justice Minister Albert Serhan told Nikkei on Friday that no precedent exists of Beirut extraditing a citizen in response to a red notice.

The meeting came a day before a planned news conference by Ghosn here, in which he has indicated he will present evidence backing up his accusation that the charges of financial misconduct against him were part of a "coup" by Nissan's management.

The former chairman plans to "name names," implicating not only Nissan executives but also Japanese government officials in the alleged plot to keep him from merging the automaker with French partner Renault, U.S. news channel Fox Business reported Monday, citing a conversation with Ghosn.

Ghosn is not expected to reveal details of his escape at the news conference to avoid exposing those involved to legal liability, however prosecutors in Tokyo have pieced together the sensational details of the getaway, which includes the 65-year-old hiding in a box.

Nissan issued a statement Tuesday calling Ghosn's escape "an act that defies Japan's judicial system" and "extremely regrettable."

"Ghosn's flight will not affect Nissan's basic policy of holding him responsible for the serious misconduct uncovered by the internal investigation," and the automaker will continue pursuing legal action against him, the statement said.

Asked about the news conference, a former Nissan executive said Ghosn may try to "justify his own actions by naming others involved in the misconduct."

An outside director said that the scandal surrounding Ghosn was unlikely to spread to Nissan's new management under CEO Makoto Uchida.

"We did thorough vetting when choosing the current executive team" to avoid complicating factors such as relationships with Ghosn, the director said.

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