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Japan says it has sought help from Lebanon over fugitive Ghosn

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan has asked Lebanon for help regarding Carlos Ghosn, a top Japanese official said on Tuesday, calling the former auto executive’s escape to Beirut “regrettable” but stopping short of spelling out what Tokyo was seeking from local authorities.

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The former Nissan Motor Co Ltd and Renault SA chairman became an international fugitive after he fled to Lebanon - his childhood home - last week to escape what he called a “rigged” justice system in Japan, where he faces multiple charges related to financial misconduct.

He has denied any wrongdoing and has said he was the victim of “backstabbing” and a “conspiracy” that wanted to derail his efforts to bring the two automakers towards a merger.

Japanese authorities said on Monday they may press for Ghosn’s extradition from Lebanon to face the charges, even though the Middle Eastern country does not normally extradite its nationals.

On Tuesday, Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary, Yoshihide Suga, sidestepped questions about what exactly Japan had asked of Lebanon beyond “finding out the truth”.

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“It’s necessary to carefully consider the legal systems of both countries,” he told a news conference, referring to any requests for the extradition of a fugitive.

Ghosn is due to speak to the media in Lebanon on Wednesday where he is widely expected to detail some of the claims he has made against Nissan since his arrest in November 2018.

Citing an interview with Ghosn, Fox Business reported that the former executive said he has “actual evidence” and documents to show there was a Japanese government-backed coup to “take him out”. He plans to identify those he believes responsible at a news conference, the broadcaster reported.

Separately, Nissan said Ghosn’s flight from Japan would not affect its policy of holding him responsible for “serious misconduct”.

“The company will continue to take appropriate legal action to hold Ghosn accountable for the harm that his misconduct has caused to Nissan,” the Japanese automaker said in a statement.

Reporting by Chang-Ran Kim, Chris Gallagher, David Dolan, Junko Fujita and Sam Nussey; Editing by Shri Navaratnam and Christopher Cushing