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Ghosn chose Lebanon because of supportive government: lawyer

Neither Lebanon nor France will extradite former Nissan chairman, attorney says

A woman believed to be Carole Ghosn, wife of former Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn, leaves a house in Beirut, Lebanon, by car on Jan. 2.   © Reuters

PARIS -- Former Nissan Motor Chairman Carlos Ghosn chose to fly to Lebanon, escaping house arrest in Japan, because he knew the government there to be supportive, his personal attorney told Nikkei on Thursday.

Francois Zimeray, who serves as Ghosn's representative, said in a telephone interview that his client is eager to prove his innocence. While acknowledging that Ghosn's sudden departure from Japan did break the law, the lawyer countered that the authorities in Tokyo did not have clean hands.

"That is true," Zimeray replied when asked if Ghosn's flight was illegal.

"But we feel that the [Japanese] judge and prosecutors were not observing the legitimacy of law, either," he said.

Ghosn left because he had "completely lost trust" in the possibility of a fair trial, Zimeray said.

On the choice of Lebanon, Zimeray said: "This is the country where Mr. Ghosn's wife lives. The people of Lebanon and the government have supported him in the past."

Attorney Francois Zimeray, who serves as Carlos Ghosn's representative, spoke with Nikkei in a telephone interview Jan. 2.

Ghosn holds citizenship in Lebanon, Brazil and France.

On the possibility of standing trial in Lebanon or France, Zimeray said Ghosn is eager to answer the allegations and prove his innocence, but that it is too early to say how and when the former Nissan chairman would choose to.

Neither France nor Lebanon is likely to extradite Ghosn to Japan, the attorney said.

While expressing respect for Japan as a country, Zimeray said its legal system is not up to democratic standards. "In France, even a terrorist has the right of attorney's attendance during an interrogation after arrest, but not in Japan," he said.

Regarding the leadership changes at Nissan and Renault, the lawyer said his client is following every detail and is "very concerned" about the automakers' direction.

The attorney refused to provide specifics on how his client made it out of Japan. Ghosn is expected to hold a news conference Jan. 8 but is expected not to share details of the escape in order to protect those who helped him, sources close to the former chairman told Reuters.

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