Lebanon received an Interpol arrest warrant on Thursday for fugitive former Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn, while Turkey launched an investigation into his daring escape from Japan.
Ghosn has become an international fugitive after he revealed on Tuesday he had fled to Lebanon to escape what he called a “rigged” justice system in Japan.
The Interpol red notice, which calls on authorities to arrest a wanted person, was received by Lebanon’s internal security forces and has yet to be referred to the judiciary, a judicial source told Reuters.
In past cases, where Lebanon has received red notices for Lebanese citizens resident in the country, the suspects have not been detained but their passports have been confiscated and bail has been set, the judicial source said.
Ghosn, who holds French, Lebanese, and Brazilian citizenship, was smuggled out of Tokyo by a private security company, a plan that was in the works for three months and involved transit through Turkey, Reuters has reported.
Turkish police on Thursday detained seven people, including four pilots, as part of an investigation into Ghosn’s passage through the country, a police spokeswoman said.
She said the other detainees were two airport ground staff and one cargo worker and all seven were expected to give statements in court on Thursday.
Flight tracking data suggests Ghosn used two different planes to fly to Istanbul and then to Lebanon.
Sources close to Ghosn said he decided to flee Japan after learning that the second of his two trials had been delayed until April 2021 and also because he had not been allowed to speak to his wife as part of strict bail conditions.
Lebanon has no extradition agreement with Japan and Ghosn enjoys widespread support in the country of his childhood, where he holds extensive investments in banking and real estate.
Japanese public broadcaster NHK said on Thursday Japanese authorities allowed Ghosn to carry a spare French passport in a locked case while out on bail, potentially shedding some light on how he managed to escape despite having passports held by Japanese lawyers.
Ghosn's stunning flight while on bail awaiting trial has vindicated prosecutors who said he should have been kept in custody, and sparked calls to toughen Japan's justice system that critics say is already overly harsh.
"I knew it!" was the reaction of a senior Nissan executive cited in the Japanese press upon learning of his former boss's escape to Lebanon to avoid trial in Tokyo.
"This is how he proves his innocence? By fleeing abroad?" added the Nissan official quoted in the Asahi Shimbun. "It should be out of the question to grant bail to suspects who deny the accusations against them."
A senior prosecutor told the Mainichi Shimbun: "This is what we had predicted" when arguing Ghosn should remain in custody, bemoaning the fact their painstaking evidence gathering was now moot.
There were also calls in the media to tighten bail procedures in the wake of the tycoon's escape, which many papers said made a "mockery" of Japan's justice system.
"To prevent a repeat of the incident, we should discuss how to cover the weak points of the system, such as setting bail equal to most of the defendants' assets, and GPS monitoring," said the Yomiuri Shimbun.
Ghosn's high-profile arrest on multiple charges of financial misconduct threw an international spotlight on Japan's justice system -- widely considered draconian compared with the West.
Suspects can be questioned initially for 48 hours, renewable for two periods of 10 days, bringing the time in custody without formal charges to 22 days.
Prosecutors often then "re-arrest" a suspect on a slightly different allegation to restart the clock -- which happened several times to Ghosn.