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Interview

Exclusive: Lebanon to question Ghosn 'as soon as possible'

Justice minister says 'no precedent' for extradition based on Interpol notice

People stand outside Carlos Ghosn's home in Beirut on Jan. 2. (Photo by Momoko Kidera)

BEIRUT -- Lebanese prosecutors will question former Nissan Motor Chairman Carlos Ghosn "as soon as possible" over his escape from Japan, the justice minister told Nikkei in an interview Friday.

Speaking in Arabic through an interpreter, Albert Serhan did not reveal when the interview would take place or whether authorities have started making arrangements with Ghosn's side.

The comments came as Japanese authorities pieced together details of how the former head of the Nissan-Renault-Mitsubishi Motors automaker alliance fled the country in violation of the terms of his bail.

But Beirut maintains that Ghosn's entry into Lebanon -- apparently after a flight from Japan's Kansai International Airport to Turkey -- was legal. The former Nissan boss appears unlikely to be handed over to Japanese authorities.

Lebanese Justice Minister Albert Serhan said his country is prepared to cooperate with the investigation into Ghosn's escape if Japan requests it.  (Photo by Tomoyo Ogawa)

The minister said Lebanon had received the "red notice" from Interpol's Tokyo office Thursday requesting the arrest and extradition of the 65-year-old Ghosn, who faces trial in Japan on charges including misuse of Nissan money.

Lebanon will consider its response to the red notice based on what is gained from the questioning, Serhan said. "The Lebanese prosecutor will decide whether he will arrest him" or take other steps, such as ordering Ghosn not to leave the country or seizing his passport, said the justice minister.

Serhan did not comment directly regarding Lebanon's stance on handing Ghosnover to Japanese authorities. But his country has no extradition treaty with Japan, and the minister said that no precedent exists of Lebanon extraditing one of its citizens in response to an Interpol red notice.

Lebanon is prepared to cooperate with the investigation into Ghosn's escape if Japan requests it, Serhan said. Japan has yet to contact Lebanese authorities, the justice minister said.

For Lebanese authorities to share information with their Japanese counterparts in order to hand Ghosn over to Japan, Tokyo would have to provide all investigative documents, Serhan said.

Ghosn -- who has Brazilian, French and Lebanese citizenship -- used a French passport to enter Lebanon, according to a Lebanese government source. There are reports that government representatives greeted Ghosn at the airport.

Serhan said there are no legal issues with Ghosn staying in Lebanon since his entry was lawful. The minister said he is unaware of anyone within the Lebanese government who cooperated with Ghosn's flight from Japan, or who knew about his escape plans beforehand.

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