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Ousted Nissan Chairman Carlos Ghosn reportedly flees house arrest in Tokyo for Lebanon

Key Points
  • Carlos Ghosn, Nissan's ousted chairman who was awaiting trial on criminal charges in Japan, flew to Lebanon on Monday evening, several outlets reported.
  • Whether he has struck a deal with prosecutors or fled is unknown.
  • Ghosn has denied charges of financial misconduct and misuse of corporate resources while running Nissan.
Carlos Ghosn, former chairman of Nissan Motor Co., leaves his lawyer's office in Tokyo, Japan, on Thursday, May 23, 2019.
Toru Hanai | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Carlos Ghosn, Nissan's ousted chairman who was awaiting trial on criminal charges in Japan, flew into Lebanon on Monday evening, France's Les Echos newspaper reported.

The newspaper cited its own unnamed source and a report in Lebanese newspaper L'Orient-Le Jour. There was no immediate confirmation from official sources. Whether Ghosn has struck a deal with prosecutors or fled is unknown.

The Financial Times also reported that Ghosn was in Lebanon, according to a source close to his family and "a professional associate."

Ghosn's attorney did not have an immediate comment, but a person close to Ghosn who asked not to be identified confirmed he was in Beirut as of Monday.

Japanese public broadcaster NHK said it spoke to a member of Ghosn's defence team and that the lawyer was unaware the former Nissan executive may have left Japan and would confirm whether it is true. The broadcaster also said prosecutors were not aware Ghosn may be outside the country and are seeking confirmation.

A spokesman for the Tokyo prosecutors office had no immediate comment to Reuters and officials at the Lebanese embassy in Tokyo could not be reached to comment. A Nissan spokesman in Tokyo declined to comment.

Carlos Ghosn lands in Lebanon: Reports

It was unclear how Ghosn, who holds both French and Lebanese citizenship, would have been able to leave Japan, where he has been under strict court-imposed restrictions on his movements.

Ghosn was ousted as chairman of Nissan and arrested in Japan a little over a year ago after then CEO Hiroto Saikawa accused him and another executive of a litany of financial misdeeds.

Saikawa abruptly resigned in September after an internal investigation found that he also allegedly pocketed excess pay. Nissan accused Ghosn and former Director Greg Kelly of concealing more than $327 million in payments to themselves and other executives — $187 million in nondisclosed compensation and $140 million in improper expenditures, according to a five-page summary of Nissan's internal investigation released in September.

Ghosn, who was also running French automaker Renault as well as the fragile Nissan-Renault-Mitsubishi alliance, was removed from both of those positions while awaiting trial in Japan.

The Financial Times said Ghosn was no longer under house arrest, but said it was not clear whether he had escaped or a deal with prosecutors had been reached. Ghosn landed at Beirut's Rafic al-Hariri international airport late on Sunday, the paper said, citing an associate of Ghosn's.

The Wall Street Journal also reported that Ghosn had fled Japan.

Ghosn's lawyers have asked a court to dismiss all charges against him. They accuse prosecutors of colluding with government officials and Nissan executives of ousting him to block any takeover of the automaker by French alliance partner Renault.

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"Contrary to the accusations made by the prosecutors, I never received any compensation from Nissan that was not disclosed, nor did I ever enter into any binding contract with Nissan to be paid a fixed amount that was not disclosed," Ghosn told a Japanese court in January.

After his arrest, Ghosn spent a long period in detention, but more recently was allowed out, subject to stringent bail conditions that required him to stay in Japan.

In September, Ghosn reached a settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission over allegedly false financial disclosures, paying a $1 million civil penalty and agreeing to a 10-year ban from serving as an officer or director of a public company. The SEC had charged Ghosn and others with concealing more than $140 million in compensation and retirement benefits.

Nissan also paid a $15 million civil penalty after the SEC charged the carmarker with violating anti-fraud rules. Both settlements were made without an admission or denial of the charges.

— Reuters contributed to this report.

Carlos Ghosn lands in Lebanon: Reports