Japan minister flying to Lebanon to make case for Ghosn's return

FILE PHOTO: Former Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn gestures during a news conference at the Lebanese Press Syndicate in Beirut, Lebanon January 8, 2020. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir/File Photo

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan's deputy justice minister is traveling to Lebanon this weekend to try to make the case that fugitive ex-Nissan 7201.T Chairman Carlos Ghosn should stand trial in Japan.

Hiroyuki Yoshiie will leave Tokyo on Saturday and meet with Lebanese Justice Minister Marie Claude Najm on Monday, Japan’s justice ministry said.

The former leader of the Renault REN.PA-Nissan automaking alliance made a sensational year-end escape from Japan, where he faces trial for financial crimes including misuse of Nissan funds for personal benefit. He denies the charges.

Ghosn said he fled to his childhood home of Lebanon to clear his name. Lebanon does not have an extradition treaty with Japan.

Brazilian-born Ghosn, who also holds Lebanese and French citizenship, returned to Twitter late on Thursday for the first time in more than a month, soliciting signatures for a petition for the release of fellow former-Nissan executive Greg Kelly, who was arrested at the same time.

“It is Nissan’s hope that Ghosn will return to Japan so that all the facts can be properly established under Japan’s judicial system,” the company said in a statement Friday.

Japan’s No. 2 automaker filed a civil lawsuit against Ghosn earlier this month seeking 10 billion yen ($92 million) in damages.

(This story corrects Lebanese justice minister’s name)

Reporting by Kevin Buckland; editing by Richard Pullin and Alex Richardson