Two men questioned in Lebanon at Turkey’s request over 2019 escape of former Nissan tycoon


BEIRUT (AP) — Lebanese judicial authorities have questioned two people at the request of Turkey on suspicion of being involved in the 2019 escape of auto tycoon Carlos Ghosn from Japan to Lebanon, officials said Friday.

The recent questioning of the two men in Beirut came a week before a hearing in Lebanon about the $1 billion lawsuit that Ghosn, formerly the president of Nissan, filed against the company and about a dozen people in Beirut over his imprisonment in Japan and what he says is Fmisinformation spread against him.

The officials said one of the two men who were questioned is a Lebanese pilot who was at an airport in Istanbul when the plane carrying Ghosn from Japan landed. The pilot, officials said, denied that he got paid to help in Ghosn escape to Beirut. The Associated Press agreed to withold the pilot’s name at the request of officials.

The AP has previously reported on the other man questioned, George-Antoine Zayek. He is believed to have helped a third man, former Green Beret Michael Taylor, hide Ghosn in a large black box supposedly containing audio equipment, although they knew Ghosn was not allowed to leave Japan while awaiting trial.

A Tokyo court handed down prison terms in 2021 for Taylor and his son Peter after they were accused of helping Ghosn escape to Lebanon while awaiting trial in Japan.

Zayek told Lebanese judicial officials that he did not know Ghosn before the escape adding that in 2019 he met Taylor in Dubai then they flew to Japan to attend a concert, the officials said on condition of anonymity in line with regulations. They quoted Zayek as saying that while in Japan, Taylor said that they should head to Lebanon and they boarded a plane where he saw two large boxes and flew to Turkey and then to Beirut.

Zayek said after arriving in Lebanon he knew from media reports that Ghosn was on the plane, the officials said.

Ghosn was arrested in Japan in November 2018 on charges of breach of trust, misusing company assets for personal gain and violating securities laws by not fully disclosing his compensation.

Ghosn is wanted in Japan and France. Since he fled to Lebanon, Beirut has received three notices from Interpol based on arrest warrants for him from those countries. In France, he is facing a number of legal challenges, including tax evasion and alleged money laundering, fraud and misuse of company assets while at the helm of the Renault-Nissan alliance.

Lebanon has no extradition treaty with Japan and does not extradite its citizens.

Ghosn has French, Brazilian and Lebanese citizenship.

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