BEIRUT — For hours, French investigators on Thursday questioned fugitive former auto magnate Carlos Ghosn in the Lebanese capital as a witness in a probe over Renault’s pollutant emissions, according to two Lebanese officials.
A prosecution official and a judge said the French questioned Ghosn before leaving Beirut later in the day. The two spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to media. The officials said Lebanese investigators sat through the questioning of Ghosn. There was no immediate comment from French officials.
Renault is facing a probe that dates back to 2017 over cheating emission tests, a charge the company denies. The probe follows earlier investigations by French anti-fraud authorities who found abnormally high emissions from some of Renault’s diesel engineered cars. Ghosn worked in Renault since 1996 until its alliance with Nissan in 1999.
Another team of French investigators is expected in Lebanon next week to question Ghosn over suspicions of financial misconduct. Ghosn, who fled Japan to Lebanon in early 2020, told The Associated Press he has done nothing wrong and hopes their investigations are eventually dropped.
It is an unusual move for French magistrates to question a suspect abroad. Ghosn is expected to be questioned for several days starting Monday in Beirut, where he was given sanctuary by Lebanese authorities. Ghosn grew up in Lebanon and has Lebanese citizenship, and Lebanon won’t extradite him.
He hasn’t yet been charged with anything in France, but could be given preliminary charges of fraud, corruption, money laundering, misuse of company assets, or aggravated breach of trust.
Lavish parties in Versailles, questionable payments to an Omani car dealer, suspected tax evasion — these are the subjects of multiple investigations in France involving Ghosn’s actions as the head of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi car alliance. They were opened amid new scrutiny of Ghosn after his shocking 2018 arrest in Japan.