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Ousted Nissan boss Ghosn arrives in Lebanon

Carlos Ghosn, the ousted boss of the Renault-Nissan carmaking alliance who was awaiting trial in Japan on charges of financial misconduct, flew into Lebanon aboard a private jet on Monday evening, several newspapers reported.
France's Les Echos newspaper cited an unidentified source and a report in Lebanese newspaper L'Orient-Le Jour, but there was no immediate confirmation from official sources. The Wall Street Journal and New York Times said Ghosn had fled Japan, apparently jumping bail.
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 defense team and that the lawyer was unaware the former Nissan executive may have left Japan and would not 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.
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.
The Financial Times said Ghosn was no longer under house arrest, but said it was not clear whether he had escaped or a deal had been reached. Ghosn landed at Beirut's Rafic al-Hariri international airport late on Sunday, the paper said, citing an associate of Ghosn.
The Journal cited people familiar with the matter saying Ghosn had fled Japan, arriving on Monday. One unidentified person told the newspaper Ghosn did not believe he would get a fair trial there and was "tired of being an industrial political hostage."
Ricardo Karam, a television host and friend of Ghosn who interviewed him several times, said Ghosn arrived in Lebanon Monday morning..
“He is home,” Karam told the AP in a message. “It’s a big adventure.”
A house known to belong to Ghosn in a Beirut neighborhood had security guards outside with two lights on Monday night, but no sign otherwise of anyone inside. The guards denied he was inside, although one said he was in Lebanon without saying how he knew that.
Even as he fell from grace internationally, Ghosn was still treated as a hero in Lebanon, where many had long held hopes he would one day play a bigger role in politics, or help rescue its failing economy.
Politicians across the board mobilized in his defense after his arrest in Japan, with some suggesting his detention may be part of a political or business-motivated conspiracy.
The Lebanese took special pride in the auto industry icon, who holds a Lebanese passport, speaks fluent Arabic and visited regularly. Born in Brazil, where his Lebanese grandfather had sought his fortune, Ghosn grew up in Beirut, where he spent part of his childhood at a Jesuit school.
His wife, Carole Nahas, is also of Lebanese heritage. In November, Ghosn was allowed to talk to his wife after an eight-month ban on such contact while he awaits trial.
Ghosn is expected to hold a press conference in Lebanon in the coming days, the Wall Street Journal said.
Ghosn was arrested at a Tokyo airport shortly after his private jet touched down on Nov 19, 2018. He faces four charges which he denies - including hiding income and enriching himself through payments to dealerships in the Middle East.
Nissan sacked the once-lauded Ghosn, saying its internal investigations revealed misconduct ranging from understating his salary while he was its chief executive, and transferring $5 million of Nissan funds to an account in which he had an interest.
Brazilian-born, of Lebanese descent and a French citizen, Ghosn began his career in 1978 at tiremaker Michelin. He moved to Renault in 1996, where he oversaw a turnaround at the French automaker that won him the nickname "Le Cost Killer."
After Renault sealed an alliance with Nissan in 1999, Ghosn used similar methods to revive the ailing Japanese brand, leading to "business superstar" status in Japan, blanket media coverage and even a manga comic book on his life.
Since his arrest, Ghosn has said he is the victim of a boardroom coup, accusing former Nissan colleagues of"backstabbing," describing them as selfish rivals bent on derailing a closer alliance between the Japanese automaker and Renault, its top shareholder.
Ghosn's lawyers have asked a court to dismiss all charges against him. They accuse prosecutors of colluding with government officials and Nissan executives to oust him to block any takeover of the automaker by French alliance partner Renault, of which Ghosn was also chairman.
After his arrest, Ghosn spent a long period in detention, but more recently was allowed out, subject to stringent bail conditions, which required him to stay in Japan. His movements and communications had been closely monitored and restricted to prevent his fleeing the country and tampering with evidence, the Tokyo District court previously said.
The following conditions were imposed on Ghosn as part of the bail, according to a member of his legal team earlier this year.
-- Must reside in Tokyo.
-- Cannot travel abroad; must surrender passport to his lawyer.
-- Needs court permission to go on a trip of more than two nights.
-- Must install surveillance cameras at the entrances of his residence.
-- Prohibited from accessing the internet and using e-mail.
-- Can only use a personal computer at his lawyer's office that is not connected to the internet.
-- Banned from communicating with parties involved in the case.
-- Needs court's permission to attend a Nissan board meeting.
-- Banned from contacting Nissan managers.


© Thomson Reuters/The Associated Press
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