A team of French investigators began questioning fugitive former auto magnate Carlos Ghosn in Beirut on Monday over suspicions of financial misconduct, Lebanese judicial officials said.
The questioning at the Palace of Justice in Beirut was attended by members of the Lebanese judiciary, the officials said.
Seven French judges, most of them investigative magistrates and a prosecutor, were taking part in the questioning, which was attended by Lebanese prosecutor Imad Qabalan.
Mr Ghosn’s Lebanese and French lawyers said their client would be questioned by “French investigating judges, in the context of legal proceedings organised by the Lebanese judicial authorities”. They said the “hearing is a voluntary step” by Mr Ghosn.
During the questioning, which is expected to last several days, Mr Ghosn will be assisted by one Lebanese and two French lawyers.
Mr Ghosn has not yet been charged with any crime in France, but could be, given preliminary charges of fraud, corruption, money laundering, misuse of company assets, or aggravated breach of trust.
He told AP last week that he was campaigning to clear his name, and hoped the visit by French investigators to Lebanon would be his first opportunity to defend himself since his arrest.
Mr Ghosn was arrested in Japan in November 2018 on accusations of financial misconduct and fled to Lebanon a year later. He now faces multiple legal challenges in France after the Japanese accusations triggered scrutiny of his activities there. Meanwhile, several associates are in jail or on trial in Japan and Turkey, in cases related to his financial activities or escape.
It is unusual for French magistrates to question a suspect abroad. Mr Ghosn, who was given sanctuary by Lebanese authorities in 2020, grew up there and has Lebanese citizenship. Lebanon will not extradite him.