US

France issues international arrest warrant for Carlos Ghosn

PARIS – French prosecutors have issued international arrest warrants for Carlos Ghosn as well as four people they believe are linked to a car dealership in Oman, alleging they helped the fallen auto titan transport millions of euros from Renault HER,

according to people familiar with the matter.

An investigating judge has issued five international arrest warrants against Mr. Ghosn, the former CEO of Renault, and the current owners or former managers of the Omani company Suhail Bahwan Automobiles, a vehicle distributor in Oman, the prosecution of the Parisian suburb of Nanterre told the Wall Street Journal. They allege Mr Ghosn funneled millions of dollars in Renault funds through the Omani car distributor for his personal use, including the purchase of a 120ft yacht.

Mr Ghosn fled from a trial for financial malfeasance in Japan to Lebanon while hiding in a box of music equipment.

At a press conference in Beirut in January, former auto executive Carlos Ghosn said he had “fleed injustice” in Japan. The WSJ’s Chip Cummins discusses what Mr Ghosn said and did not say, and what he revealed about possible next steps. Photo: Maya Alleruzzo/Associated Press

After escaping, Mr Ghosn initially welcomed the French investigation, saying he believed in French justice, which would allow him to establish his innocence. A spokeswoman for Mr. Ghosn declined to comment on the arrest warrants.

The latest arrest warrant will not fundamentally change Mr. Ghosn’s personal situation. After fleeing Japan, he remains in Lebanon, where he lives as an international fugitive in a house bought from him by the Japanese automaker. Lebanon does not extradite its citizens – and Mr. Ghosn has Lebanese, French and Brazilian nationality.

However, the warrants are another legal blow to Mr. Ghosn’s reputation. He paints himself as a victim of a Japanese judicial system, which he calls unfair and presumes guilty. Japanese officials say he would have had a fair trial had he stayed in Japan.

Those close to Mr Ghosn are not ruling out that he will one day travel to France for trial, although they say this is complicated by the fact that Lebanon currently holds his passports. It could also mean being away from his wife for an extended period of time. Japanese prosecutors have issued an arrest warrant for Carole Ghosn following her husband’s escape. She is not a French citizen and could be extradited to Japan if she tried to leave Lebanon, according to relatives of Mr. Ghosn. Mr. Ghosn, as a French citizen, cannot be extradited to Japan. France, as a rule, does not extradite its citizens and Mr. Ghosn has French nationality.

In an interview with Nick Kostov of the WSJ, Carlos Ghosn said he regretted not taking an opportunity in 2009 to work in the United States, where he would not have been “crucified” for his salary. The former auto executive recently escaped from Japan, where he faces charges of financial wrongdoing. Photo: Jacob Russell for the Wall Street Journal

One of the French warrants is for Suhail Bahwan, the billionaire whose sprawling conglomerate owns the concession in Oman, according to people familiar with the matter. Mr. Bahwan has a number of ties to France, where he owns properties. One of his daughters, Hind Bahwan, is president of the Oman French Friendship Association and received France’s highest honour, the Legion of Honor, in 2019.

The other warrants are for two of Mr Bahwan’s sons, as well as the former managing director of the Omani concession, the sources said.

Write to Nick Kostov at Nick.Kostov@wsj.com

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Appeared in the print edition of April 22, 2022 under the title “French arrest warrants issued against Ghosn”.

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