French judges have begun to question Carlos Ghosn, the former Nissan chief who fled to Beirut from Japan after being arrested on financial misconduct charges.
Mr Ghosn, who masterminded the Renault-Nissan carmarking alliance, was accused by Japanese authorities in 2018 of under-reporting his salary and using company funds for personal purposes. He was chairman of both Nissan and Mitsubishi and chief executive of Renault at the time.
He has been fighting multiple probes since his escape hidden in carry-on luggage on a private jet that flew out of Japan’s Kansai Airport in late 2019, and the French allegations concern financial misconduct in France.
Mr Ghosn has denied wrongdoing in all cases against him.
His defence team said it had identified procedural irregularities in the French case which undermined the legal proceedings being organised by Lebanese judicial authorities.
The lawyers said in a statement that Mr Ghosn, who had previously lived and worked in France and has French, Lebanese and Brazilian citizenship, would be heard as a witness and so cannot dispute the legality of the procedure.
The statement said the team was calling for Mr Ghosn “to be afforded the status of ‘indicted’, as only this would allow him to challenge the legal flaws surrounding the case”.
In France, Mr Ghosn is at loggerheads with his former employer Renault over pension and severance payments he argues are due, and tax authorities have looked into his fiscal arrangements.
The French magistrates in Lebanon are pursuing questions about events put on by Mr Ghosn at the Palace of Versailles, including whether in one instance he intentionally used company resources to host a party that was for private purposes.
Those hearings, led by a panel of seven French investigators at Beiruit’s Palace of Justice, began on Monday and are expected to continue until 4 June.
The French prosecutor’s office is also looking into financial flows between Renault, its Dutch affiliate and a car dealership in Oman.
Mr Ghosn said last week he was campaigning to clear his name, and hoped the visit of the French investigators would be a key step on that road. He described his fall from the top of the automotive industry as like being “hit by a bus”.
However, he suffered a defeat last week in one of his legal cases when a Dutch court ordered him to repay €5m (£4.3m) in wages to Nissan and Mitsubishi in a case he had brought.
Additional reporting by agencies