Japan will only back Lebanon IMF bailout if it deports Carlos Ghosn: Nissan Lawyer

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Lebanon might need to deport former Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn to Japan to save its economy with an International Monetary Fund (IMF) bailout, according to Nissan’s representative in Lebanon via Arab News on Saturday.

Ghosn is wanted in Japan for allegedly committing financial irregularities as Nissan chief and then fleeing the country to his native Lebanon, in a daring escape that involved him being smuggled in a musical instrument box.

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Lebanon does not have a formal extradition treaty with Japan, and Ghosn is currently free in Lebanon, despite authorities imposing a travel ban on him in January after Interpol issued a Red Notice request for him to be arrested.

However, Ghosn’s fate might have become intertwined with talks over a potential IMF bailout, seen as a vital step for the government if it wants to help stop the deterioration of the country’s economy, according to Nissan’s lawyer via Arab News.

Read more: Ghosn laments Brazil’s failure to ‘pressure’ Japan: Media

“For Japan to agree on that they want the Lebanese authorities to extradite Ghosn, otherwise, they won’t provide Lebanon with financial assistance. Japan is one of the IMF’s major contributors … if Japan vetoes Lebanon then the IMF won’t give Lebanon money except after deporting Ghosn,” Nissan’s legal representative in Lebanon Sakher El Hachem told Arab News.

The claim suggests that Japan is prepared to use its influence within the IMF to undermine any bailout talks unless Ghosn is extradited.

Prime Minister Hassan Diab’s government is reportedly seeking $10 billion from the IMF to help plug the holes in country’s finances. It also hopes that the reforms required for the bailout would help unlock a further $11 billion of aid pledged at the 2018 CEDRE conference.

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Carlos Ghosn, former Chairman and CEO of the Renault-Nissan Alliance, and his wife Carole pose at the Cannes Film Festival in 2017. (File photo: Reuters)
Carlos Ghosn, former Chairman and CEO of the Renault-Nissan Alliance, and his wife Carole pose at the Cannes Film Festival in 2017. (File photo: Reuters)

Extradition to Japan

Japan has issued an arrest warrant for Ghosn and contacted Interpol to push for his extradition.

Japanese officials including Minister of Justice Hiroyuki Yoshiie made several visits to Lebanon in February, where they made the case for Ghosn’s deportation.

Lebanese President Michel Aoun noted at the time that Ghosn had entered the country legally using his French passport and is reported to have met with Ghosn since.

According to El Hachem in Arab News, Lebanon has stopped any legal procedures on the case since the coronavirus outbreak.

“The last legal procedure that we were handling in the case was to evacuate his Al Achrafieh property and hand it over to our client (Nissan). Then COVID-19 struck and halted all legal procedures although a ruling was expected in that case,” said El Hachem.

Ghosn insists that he is innocent and says he had to escape “injustice and political persecution” in Japan.

The 66-year-old businessman was head of Nissan in Japan for 17 years.

He holds French, Lebanese, and Brazilian passports, and has reportedly been in talks with the Brazilian Embassy in Beirut regarding his situation.

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