190126 Carlos Ghosn
Carlos Ghosn remains in Lebanon, and the laws of the country prevent citizens from being extradited. Image Credit: AFP

Paris: French investigators issued international arrest warrants for former Nissan Motor Co. Chairman Carlos Ghosn and others who allegedly helped him siphon millions of euros from partner Renault SA.

The warrants were issued on Thursday afternoon, prosecutors said. The one targeting Ghosn concerns a wide spectrum of allegations, including corporate spending on various events and trips that may have been personal.

Since Ghosn’s dramatic escape from Japan to Lebanon in late 2019, his main legal risks have largely shifted to France, where he is suspected of using Renault’s funds to pay for a yacht and his wife’s birthday celebration at the Versailles Palace. The charges come after French investigators traveled to Beirut last year to question Ghosn and issued a summons for him to face possible charges in France.

Japan also has an arrest warrant for Ghosn, but the former auto titan is a Lebanese national and the country does not extradite its citizens. He also has citizenship in France and Brazil. In Japan, Ghosn was facing charges of financial misconduct. A lawyer for the former Renault boss called the French arrest warrant “surprising”, saying that his client is forbidden by Lebanese authorities from leaving the country.

“Carlos Ghosn has always cooperated with French judicial officials,” Jean Tamalet said by phone. Ghosn has previously denied the French allegations.

Paradoxically, Ghosn was in favor of being charged in the French investigation, but legal complexities prevented that from taking place in Lebanon. An arrest warrant prevents him from having an input, whereas charges would have given him a status. They would have allowed his defense team to access evidence, lodge procedural challenges and petition for certain witnesses to be heard.

Contrary to Japan, Ghosn could be ordered to face trial in his absence in France. Tamalet suggested that the probe against his client may be used politically as French voters prepare to decide on Sunday whether to elect incumbent Emmanuel Macron or his nationalist rival, Marine Le Pen, in the presidential runoff ballot.

“Hats off to the timing of the prosecution for the issuance of the arrest warrant and its broadcasting via the Anglo-Saxon press,” the attorney said by phone.