(Jan. 29, 2020) On January 9, 2020, the Lebanese Court of Cassation’s Office of General Prosecution issued a decision to prohibit Carlos Ghosn, the former CEO of Nissan Auto Corporation, from traveling outside the country after interrogating him regarding charges of corruption, tax evasion, and violating Lebanon’s Anti-Israel Boycott Law of 1955.
Background of the Case
Ghosn had been charged by the Japanese government with multiple counts of tax evasion and corruption and was under house detention during his trial in Japan when he escaped to Lebanon in December 2019. Ghosn is of Lebanese origin and holds both French and Lebanese citizenship. After his escape, Japanese authorities issued an arrest warrant for him through Interpol and requested that Lebanon extradite him back to Japan. However, Japan and Lebanon have not concluded an extradition agreement, and article 30 of the Criminal Code does not allow the extradition of Lebanese citizens.
Lebanon’s Response to Extradition Request
In response to the Japanese government’s extradition request, the Lebanese Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying that Ghosn had entered the country legally and there is no judicial cooperation agreement between Lebanon and Japan.
Because of the Interpol request, the General Prosecution summoned Ghosn for interrogation concerning the Japanese authorities’ charges.
After hearing from Ghosn, the General Prosecution issued the travel ban against him, and he was released on the grounds that he had a known residency address.
The Lebanese judicial authorities have requested Ghosn’s file from their Japanese counterparts for examination. If the General Prosecution determined that there was sufficient evidence to support the charges against him, Ghosn would be subject to article 20 of the Lebanese Criminal Code, which provides that Lebanese laws apply to any Lebanese citizen who commits crimes outside Lebanese territory, and he therefore could face trial in Lebanon.
Violating the 1955 Anti-Israeli Boycott Law
In addition to the charges issued by the Japanese authorities, the General Prosecution of the Court of Cassation interrogated Ghosen for violating article 1 of the 1955 Anti-Israeli Boycott Law. In 2008, Ghosn visited Israel to meet with Israeli President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in his capacity as the CEO of Nissan Auto Corporation. Article 1 of the 1955 Law prohibits both natural and legal persons from concluding, in person or through a medium, agreements concerning any matter—including commercial deals and financial transactions—with bodies or persons residing in Israel or holding its nationality or working for or on its behalf.
Expert Legal Opinion on the Case
According to Lebanese media reports, Lebanese legal expert Samer Hamdan has stated that the travel ban against Ghosn is a normal preventive measure during the course of an investigation of this type. Concerning the charge of violating the 1955 Law on the Boycott of Israel, the statute of limitations for this crime is only 10 years. It thus may apply to Ghosn, whose visit to Israel was 12 years ago.