What can the issuance of an international arrest warrant by France change?

This is a new stage in the judicial soap opera which targets the former boss of Renault, Carlos Ghosn. This Thursday, the French courts issued an international arrest warrant against the ex-car magnate. This decision comes within the framework of an investigation conducted in Nanterre for abuse of corporate assets, money laundering and corruption.

Already targeted by an Interpol arrest warrant at the request of Japan, the businessman, aged 67 and of Lebanese, French and Brazilian nationalities, took refuge in Lebanon after his incredible escape from the Japanese archipelago, in December 2019. Arrested in November 2018 in Tokyo, he justified his escape by claiming to have wanted to “escape injustice”, denouncing a “plot” by the Japanese authorities.

What does French justice accuse Carlos Ghosn of?

In France, two legal proceedings are currently targeting the former boss of Renault. The first is conducted in Paris and concerns the consulting services concluded by RNBV, the Dutch subsidiary embodying the alliance between Renault and Nissan, with the former French Minister of Justice Rachida Dati and the criminologist Alain Bauer. As early as February 2019, several months before Carlos Ghosn fled from Japan to Lebanon, the Renault company had reported to the judicial authorities that its ex-boss had received for his “personal benefit” a benefit in kind of 50,000 euros in the under a sponsorship agreement with the Palace of Versailles. Facts disputed by the principal concerned.

A year later, in February 2020, a judicial investigation was opened against X by the Nanterre public prosecutor’s office for acts of abuse of corporate assets and money laundering, before being extended last July for corruption. Among the facts targeted, the investigators are interested in nearly 15 million euros in payments considered suspicious between RNBV and the Renault distributor in Oman, the company Suhail Bahwan Automobiles (SBA).

Why did the investigating judges issue this international arrest warrant?

Last February, three French magistrates went to Beirut to continue their investigations in the investigation conducted in Nanterre targeting the former boss of the Renault-Nissan alliance, reported AFP. French justice then had several options: either ask the Lebanese authorities to “notify the charges” to Carlos Ghosn – which is equivalent to an indictment in France – or issue an arrest warrant against him.

It was this second option that was finally chosen by the magistrates, because it was deemed more “legally secure”, according to judicial sources. However, when such a warrant is issued, “nothing imposes a binding obligation on the authorities of a third country to execute it”, indicates to 20 minutes Didier Rebut, professor of law at the University of Paris-Panthéon-Assas. Moreover, Lebanon – like France – does not extradite its nationals. Concretely, this means that the Lebanese authorities have no obligation to deliver Carlos Ghosn to France.

What can this change for the procedure?

“It will not change much to the current situation of Carlos Ghosn. As long as he chooses not to leave Lebanese territory, he is not at risk,” said Didier Rebut. Contacted by AFP, one of the businessman’s lawyers, Jean Tamalet, considered this mandate “very surprising”. “Carlos Ghosn, who has always cooperated with justice, is subject to a judicial ban on leaving Lebanese territory,” he said.

For the civil party in this case, on the contrary, the issuance of this mandate is an “important” step, notes lawyer Kami Haeri, counsel for the Renault group. “This reflects the seriousness of the facts brought to light after careful investigations and revealing hidden financial relations involving several million euros between Carlos Ghosn and the founders and managers of SBA”, he reacts to 20 minutes.

For its part, the Nanterre prosecutor’s office indicates that this international arrest warrant “is worth an indictment” of Carlos Ghosn in this case. Thus, “by issuing this arrest warrant, this will allow the investigating judges, in the long term, to close this file and then decide whether or not to refer the case and Carlos Ghosn to a French court”, concludes Didier Rebut.

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