Japan Prosecutors Issue Warrants For ‘Ghosn Escape’ Accessories

This screen grab from handout video released on April 9, 2019 by representatives of former Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn shows Ghosn preparing to speak at the beginning of a video message recorded on April 3 before his rearrest earlier this month in Tokyo.
Handout / Representatives for Carlos Ghosn / AFP

 

Japanese prosecutors on Thursday issued arrest warrants for a former US special forces operative and two other people accused of helping former Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn jump bail and flee the country.

The prosecutors also issued a warrant for Ghosn for leaving the country illegally, after he escaped to Lebanon via Turkey last month.

Warrants were issued for Michael Taylor, 59, reportedly a former US special forces operative-turned-security consultant, 26-year-old Peter Taylor, who local media identified as his son, and George Zayek, 60.

They are suspected of taking Ghosn to a hotel in Osaka, western Japan, and hiding him inside a case before taking him to Kansai airport where they allegedly helped him evade a security inspection.

The warrants are the first official confirmation of the reported details about how Ghosn slipped past security and jumped bail shortly after Christmas.

Ghosn has refused to confirm or deny the various reports on how he gave Japanese authorities the slip.

The escape of perhaps the most high-profile suspect on bail in Japan left officials red-faced and they have demanded Ghosn returns to face trial.

Lebanon does not have an extradition treaty with Japan.

Ghosn was arrested in November 2018 and faced four charges of financial misconduct, which he denies.

He has said he did not believe he would get a fair trial, and accused Nissan executives opposed to his plans to integrate the firm further with its French partner Renault of effectively cooking up the charges against him.

AFP

Another Nigerian Lady Rescued From Lebanon

 

A Nigerian lady, Gloria Bright has been rescued from Lebanon where she was allegedly working as a house help.

The mother of two, who left the shores of Nigeria in October 2019 through a travel agency, had signed up a two-year work agreement in Lebanon.

But contrary to the agreement to be engaged to teach English language, on arrival, she was turned to a house help and also not paid.

“The experience wasn’t a nice one in Lebanon; they take advantage of some ladies. I just want to thank God for bringing me back home safely

“I left October 25, 2019, to work and I was told that I’ll teach English to the children there, but when I got there, I a housemaid work.”

READ ALSO: Nigerian Lady Trafficked To Lebanon Regains Freedom, Handed Over To Ambassador In Beirut

Meanwhile, a representative of the travel agency who perfected her trip to Lebanon, Adetuni Sanusi, debunked Ms. Bright’s claims and explained that she had prior knowledge of the job.

“When she got to Lebanon, we kept in touch with her, she was in communication with us, the agency and that she was happy that everything is going fine and the family she was working for are fine.

“I was shocked to hear her say that she was asked to go over there to teach and in Lebanon, their lingua franca is French and Arabic, so I wouldn’t know why we would recruit her for the purpose of teaching.”

Ms. Bright’s case comes barely a week after a young Nigerian lady Omolola Ajayi, who was trafficked to Lebanon, regained her freedom.

The Ilorin-based Ms. Ajayi claimed she was sold into slavery after believing that she was going there to teach English language, only to discover that she was deceived.

Nigerian Lady Trafficked To Lebanon Regains Freedom, Handed Over To Ambassador In Beirut

 

A young Nigerian lady who was trafficked to Lebanon has regained her freedom and has now been handed over to the Nigerian Ambassador in Beirut.

This is according to the Chairman, Nigerians in Diaspora Commission, Mrs. Abike Dabiri-Erewa.

Mrs Dabiri-Erewa made this disclosure via her official Twitter page on Monday, January 13.

According to the President’s special aide, the young lady who is known as Omolola Ajayi was received warmly by Ambassador Goni Zanna Bura and she is happy to be in safe hands.

She added that Omolola will soon be home.

‘Please save me, I don’t want to die’

A few days ago, Omolola Ajayi cried out for help via a viral video, claiming that she was allegedly sold into slavery in Lebanon.

Omolola revealed that her parents, Mr. Kehinde Ajayi and Mrs. Felicia Ajayi live at Offa Garage at Under Bridge in Ilorin, Kwara State, alleged that a family friend perpetrated the sad act against her.

According to Omolola, she thought she was coming to Lebanon to teach English but discovered she had been deceived upon arriving in the country.

Omolola disclosed that some of those who fell victim to the same scam are already dead as they are not taken to the hospital when they are sick by their “masters” who seized their passport upon arriving in the country.

READ ALSO: Nigerian Docked For Allegedly Killing A South African Policeman

Below is a full transcription of what the distraught young lady said in her viral video.

A family friend introduced me to the Lebanese that brought me here to teach their children English language. It turned out to be a lie. When I got here, they collected my passport and kept it. I asked why they did that, I was told that I had been sold as a slave. What I’m facing here is not a small thing. I hope I don’t die. If we’re sick, they wouldn’t take us to the hospital and they only give us analgesics. Half of the people we came to Lebanon together with have died.

The person I’m with now wants to rape me, but I didn’t agree. I’m struggling with him. He has collected my phone. He said that he wouldn’t return it until I accept his sexual advances. If he is sleeping or has gone out, I take the phone.

I told my boss that I wanted to be returned to Nigeria, he replied that he has paid for me; that dead or alive, he owns me. I have a three-year-old baby in Nigeria. Feminique Life Support, please help me, have mercy on me! I want to take care of my daughter. Please don’t let my death make my parents cry.

The other girl I worked with has travelled so he could come to me again. Please help me, don’t allow them to kill me in this country. I don’t even have room to sleep. I sleep on the floor, in the parlor, in this cold weather. I’m not even given a cloth to cover; I wear rags. Please help me because as this man tried to rape me, I pushed him away, so I am scared of him dying by my hands because they’ll kill me too.

My child doesn’t know me and I am suffering too much. The work I came here to do is different from what they are using me for here, and as I speak, I’m even ill and the only drug I had been given was analgesic.

Four staff from our the Nigerian mission in Lebanon and the “Master” the White Old man that brought Ajayi Omolola. Credit: @nidcom_gov

Reactions and arrest

Reacting to the viral video, Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrasaq of Kwara State condemned the rising trend of human trafficking in the country.

The governor vowed to deal with anyone caught in the state according to the dictates of the law.

Governor Abdulrasaq said he ordered an immediate investigation into the matter, adding that three suspects, comprising two Nigerians and the Lebanese referred to in the footage, had been arrested in connection with the case.

He further revealed that all the suspects and those connected with the case are being interrogated.

The governor also disclosed that discreet investigations by the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, in Kwara State have revealed that there are at least 28 other victims of this horrible trafficking gang.

He urged residents to be confident in coming forward with information regarding trafficking activities.

Air Strike Kills Eight Iraq Paramilitaries In East Syria

 

An airstrike in eastern Syria killed eight fighters of Iraq’s Hashed al-Shaabi paramilitary force overnight, a war monitor said on Friday.

“Unidentified aircraft targeted vehicles and arms depots in the Albu Kamal area, causing a large explosion. At least eight Iraqi Hashed fighters were killed,” the head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Rami Abdel Rahman, said.

He said several others were wounded.

Through a spokesman contacted by AFP, the US-led military coalition operating in Syria and Iraq denied carrying out the strike.

Abdel Rahman said three villages in the Albu Kamal area known for housing forces loyal to Tehran have been targeted by drone strikes since Wednesday, causing no casualties.

READ ALSO: Iranian Missile Brought Down Airliner, Says Canadian PM

The deadly strike comes in a context of spiralling tension between the United States and Iran, much of which has played out in Iraq.

Late last year, a US air strike in Iraq killed 25 Hashed fighters from the Kataeb Hezbollah militia, considered one of the closest to Tehran.

Hashed supporters subsequently stormed the huge US embassy compound in central Baghdad, further escalating the situation.

On January 3, a US strike near Baghdad airport killed Qasem Soleimani, Iran’s feared external operations supremo, in one of the Middle East’s highest-profile assassinations of recent years.

Also killed in the strike was Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, a founder of Kataeb Hezbollah and seen as Iran’s man in Iraq.

Tehran has vowed bloody revenge and has so far responded with ballistic missiles on a base in western Iraq housing US and other coalition troops.

Iran claimed the strikes killed 80 people but neither the US nor the Iraqi military reported any casualties.

Nearly Nine Years Of Conflict In Syria

Iraqi protesters set ablaze a sentry box in front of the US embassy building in the capital Baghdad to protest against the weekend’s air strikes by US planes on several bases belonging to the Hezbollah brigades near Al-Qaim, an Iraqi district bordering Syria, on December 31, 2019. Ahmad AL-RUBAYE / AFP

 

 

Syria’s war began as a peaceful uprising that was swiftly crushed in a regime crackdown. Almost nine years on, more than 380,000 people have died, and millions more have fled.

After Russian President Vladimir Putin — a key ally of Damascus — on Tuesday made a surprise visit to the country, here is a summary of the main events in the conflict:

Revolt to repression

In March 2011, protests break out to demand political change after four decades of repressive rule by the Assad dynasty.

President Bashar al-Assad’s regime cracks down on demonstrations but rallies continue.

In July an army colonel who has defected from the military sets up the Turkey-based opposition Free Syrian Army (FSA).

An armed rebellion erupts, with support from western and Arab countries. The rebels seize key territory, including large swathes of third city Homs and a chunk of the ancient city of Aleppo.

Air strikes

In 2012 regime forces step up their crackdown, carrying out bloody operations, notably in the central city of Hama, a bastion of opposition to the Assad regime.

In July FSA fighters launch a battle for Damascus but the government holds firm.

From 2013 regime helicopters and planes unleash air strikes, some of them using barrel bombs, on rebel zones.

The same year Iran-backed Lebanese Shiite militant group Hezbollah confirms it has deployed fighters to back Syrian government forces.

Iran also boosts its support for Assad.

Chemical attack

On August 21, 2013, chemical attacks blamed on the regime on two rebel-held areas near Damascus reportedly kill more than 1,400 people. The regime denies the charge.

Then US president Barack Obama pulls back from threatened punitive strikes on Syrian regime infrastructure, instead of agreeing a deal with Moscow that is meant to dismantle Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal.

Islamic State group

In June 2014, the jihadist Islamic State group proclaims a “caliphate” over territory it has seized in Syria and Iraq.

In September a US-led coalition launches airstrikes against IS in Syria.

The strikes benefit Kurdish groups, who since 2013 have run autonomous administrations in Kurdish-majority areas.

Kurds join with Arabs to form the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

They oust IS from key areas including the jihadists’ de facto capital Raqa in 2017, and then in 2019 their last Syrian holdout, the village of Baghuz.

In October IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is killed during a US special services operation in northwestern Syria.

Russia steps in

In September 2015 Russia launches airstrikes in support of Assad’s troops, in a campaign that will prove to be a turning point in the war.

In a string of deadly campaigns, the regime retakes key rebel bastions, from Aleppo in 2016 to Eastern Ghouta in 2018.

US strikes

In April 2017 a sarin gas attack on the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhun kills more than 80 people.

US President Donald Trump unleashes missile strikes against the regime’s Shayrat airbase.

In April 2018, the US, with the support of France and Britain, launches retaliatory strikes after an alleged regime chemical attack on the then rebel-held town of Douma, near Damascus.

Turkish offensive against Kurds

On October 9, 2019, Ankara launches an offensive targeting Kurdish forces in Syria, whom it brands “terrorists” linked to Kurdish insurgents in Turkey.

It follows Washington’s decision to withdraw US forces from the Turkey-Syria border area.

Turkey and its Syrian proxies have since taken a 120-kilometre by 30-kilometre stretch of the border.

Battle for Idlib

Since mid-December, the Syrian regime and its ally Russia have ramped up their bombardments of Idlib province in the northwest, involving ground battles with jihadists and rebels.

Damascus vows to reconquer the region, run by the powerful Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) jihadist alliance, led by Syria’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate.

US Army Will ‘Pay Price’ For Killing Soleimani – Hezbollah Chief

 

 

Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah on Sunday said the US army will “pay the price” for killing top Iranian general Qasem Soleimani and a senior Iraqi commander in a drone strike.

“The American army killed them and it will pay the price,” the Iran-backed head of the Lebanese Shiite group warned in a televised speech following Friday’s strike in the Iraqi capital.

“The only just punishment is (to target) American military presence in the region: US military bases, US warships, each and every officer and soldier in the region,” Nasrallah said.

He added however that American civilians such as “businessmen, engineers, journalists and doctors” should be spared.

“When the coffins of American soldiers and officers… start to return to the United States, (US President Donald) Trump and his administration will realise they have lost the region,” he said.

Soleimani and top Iraqi military figure Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis were killed in a US drone strike Friday near Baghdad’s international airport, sparking fury in Iran and Iraq.

Nasrallah’s speech was beamed to black-clad supporters who gathered in southern Beirut, waving Hezbollah’s yellow flag or holding up portraits of Soleimani and Muhandis.

Nasrallah also called on Iraq to free itself of the American “occupation”.

“Our demand, our hope from our brothers in the Iraqi parliament is… to adopt a law that demands American forces withdraw from Iraq,” he said.

Iraq’s parliament urged the government on Sunday to end the presence of US-led coalition forces in the country, outraged by the American strike.

Some 5,200 US soldiers are stationed across Iraqi bases to support local troops preventing a resurgence of the Islamic State jihadist group.

They are deployed as part of the broader international coalition, invited by the Iraqi government in 2014 to help fight IS.

In his speech, Nasrallah said he had last seen Soleimani when the Iranian general visited him on New Year’s Day on Wednesday, without specifying where the meeting took place.

He said the general had flown out of the Damascus airport on Thursday night to Baghdad, where he was welcomed by Muhandis.

Earlier on Sunday, Hezbollah news outlet Al-Manar published undated photos of Nasrallah and Soleimani, including one in which the Iranian commander kisses Nasrallah’s forehead.

In a rare interview aired on Iranian state television in October, Soleimani said he had been in Lebanon during the 34-day 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war to oversee the fighting.

Hezbollah is the only side not to have disarmed after Lebanon’s 1975-1990 civil war.

The United States has designated it a “terrorist” group and several of its figures are under sanctions, but the party is also a key player in Lebanese politics.

Lebanon Receives Interpol Arrest Notice For Ghosn

FILES) In this file photo taken on October 1, 2018 then French Renault group CEO and chairman of Japan’s Nissan Motor CO. Ltd and Mitsubishi Motors Corp, Carlos Ghosn attends the event “Tomorrow in Motion” on the eve of the first press day of the Paris Motor Show in Paris. France “will not extradite” Carlos Ghosn if the former Nissan boss, who fled Japan to avoid a triaL

 

Lebanon’s judiciary has received a red notice from Interpol for the arrest of fugitive auto tycoon Carlos Ghosn, the state-run National News Agency reported on Thursday.

It quoted Justice Minister Albert Sarhan as announcing that “the public prosecutor… has received what is known as a red notice from Interpol in the Carlos Ghosn case.”

The French-Lebanese former Nissan boss, who had been under house arrest in Japan over several counts of financial misconduct, escaped in mysterious circumstances and arrived in Beirut on Monday.

Interpol, which is headquartered in the French city of Lyon, is an international organisation that facilitates worldwide police cooperation.

An Interpol ‘red notice’ is a request to police across the world to provisionally arrest a person pending extradition, surrender or similar legal action. It is not an arrest warrant.

A Lebanese judicial source has already told AFP however that Lebanon and Japan do not have an extradition agreement under which Ghosn — who holds Lebanese, French and Brazilian nationalities — could be sent back to Tokyo

AFP

Syria Regime Fire Kills Eight In School Turned Shelter

 

 

Land-to-land missiles fired by Syrian regime forces killed eight civilians including four children in a school in northwestern Syria on Wednesday, a war monitor said.

Part of the building in the town of Sarmeen had been turned into a shelter for the displaced, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

In the latest round of violence in Syria’s nearly nine-year-old war, regime forces have upped their deadly bombardment of the northwestern opposition bastion of Idlib in recent weeks.

In December alone, the violence pushed some 284,000 from their homes in the jihadist-run region of some three million people, the United Nations says.

The mass movement of people has seen public buildings such as mosques, garages, wedding halls and schools turned into shelters, UN humanitarian agency OCHA says.

Regime ally Russia announced a ceasefire for Idlib in late August after months of deadly Russian and regime bombardment that killed around 1,000 civilians.

But sporadic clashes and bombardment persisted throughout the autumn before a spike in violence in the past month, the Observatory says.

Syria’s civil war has killed more than 370,000 people since it started in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government protests.

In total 11,215 people including more than 1,000 children were killed during the war last year, although it was the least deadly year on record since the beginning of the conflict.

Protesters Storm New Lebanon PM’s Home, Ask Him To Resign

Lebanese protesters shout slogans as they gather outside the house of Lebanon’s new prime minister in the capital Beirut, calling for his resignation less than 10 days after he was appointed, on December 28, 2019. Inset is PM Hassan Diab/AFP

 

Dozens of protesters gathered outside the Beirut home of Lebanon’s new prime minister on Saturday, calling for Hassan Diab’s resignation less than 10 days after he was appointed.

Lebanon is without a cabinet and in the grips of a deepening economic crisis after a two-month-old protest movement forced Saad Hariri to stand down as prime minister on October 29.

Anti-government protests continued after Hariri’s resignation, while political parties negotiated for weeks before nominating Diab, a professor and former education minister, to replace him on December 19.

Echoing protester demands, Diab promised to form a government of independent experts within six weeks — in a country where appointing a cabinet can take months.

But protesters on Saturday were unconvinced by his promise.

“We’re here to bring down Hassan Diab. He doesn’t represent us. He’s one of them,” said one young demonstrator, referring to the country’s ruling elite, who protesters despise collectively.

Lina, another protester agreed, saying: “It’s the revolution that must name the prime minister, not them.”

The 60-year-old Diab, who has a low public profile and styles himself as a technocrat, last week called protester demands legitimate but asked them to give him a chance to form “an exceptional government”.

“We are willing to give him a chance, but let us at least give him a roadmap,” Lina told AFP.

“The names don’t matter to us, we want policy plans, what is his programme?” she asked.

Protesters decry Diab’s participation as a minister in a government deemed corrupt.

The support given to him by powerful Shiite movement Hezbollah also angers many protesters and pro-Hariri Sunnis.

Protesters also gathered in the northern Sunni majority city of Tripoli on Saturday, an AFP photographer said.

The protests and political deadlock have brought Lebanon to its worst economic crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war.

The international community has urged a new cabinet to be formed swiftly to implement economic reforms and unlock international aid.

AFP

Lebanon Finance Minister Accuses Banks Of ‘Trapping’ Civil Servants Salaries

 

 

 

Lebanon’s caretaker finance minister accused the country’s banks on Tuesday of “trapping” civil servants’ salaries with withdrawal limits that have fuelled public anger in the crisis-stricken country.

“What is happening in some Lebanese banks is unacceptable,” Ali Hassan Khalil wrote on Twitter.

“They are trapping the salaries of (state) employees that are transferred by the finance ministry every month.”

Rocked by two months of anti-government protests and a political deadlock, Lebanon is also facing its worst economic crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war.

A liquidity crunch has pushed Lebanese banks to impose capital controls on dollar accounts, capping withdrawals at around $1,000 a month. Some have imposed even tighter restrictions.

Some have also capped weekly withdrawals of the Lebanese pound at one million — the equivalent of $660 at official rates — even as the currency has plunged by nearly a third against the dollar on the black market in recent weeks.

The tightening controls have prompted a public uproar, with many accusing banks of robbing them of their savings.

On Tuesday, Khalil said it was a “sacred right” of civil servants to be paid in full and on time.

“It is not permissible for this right to be violated,” he said, vowing legal action to ensure public servants can access their salaries in full.

At banks in the northern city of Tripoli, tensions soared Tuesday as clients struggled to withdraw their salaries, said an AFP correspondent there.

A fight broke out in a branch near the city’s main protest camp after the bank refused to let a customer withdraw dollars.

An anti-government street movement has rocked the small Mediterranean country since October 17.

Bowing to popular pressure, the government resigned two weeks into demonstrations.

Since then, a potential default on Lebanon’s huge public debt has heightened the economic and political crisis.

The faltering economy has pushed many companies into bankruptcy, while others have laid off staff and slashed salaries.

A recession of more than 0.2 percent is expected for this year, the World Bank says.

In its first step towards forming an urgently-needed government, President Michel Aoun last week designated engineering professor Hassan Diab as the country’s next prime minister, replacing Saad Hariri who quit in late October in the face of mass protests.

Diab, a self-styled technocrat, has vowed to form a cabinet of independent experts within six weeks.

Lebanese President Plans To Appoint Hezbollah-Backed Diab as PM

A handout picture provided by the Lebanese photo agency Dalati and Nohra on December 19, 2019 shows Lebanese President Michel Aoun (L) meeting with caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri at the presidential palace in Baabda, east

 

Lebanese President Michel Aoun will name Hezbollah-backed Hassan Diab as the protest-hit country’s prime minister, the presidency said Thursday, ending nearly two months of political wrangling.

“After binding parliamentary consultations… the president has summoned… Hassan Diab to appoint him to form a government,” the presidency said in a statement after the twice-delayed talks ended on Thursday.

AFP

Lebanon Protest: Man Sets Himself On Fire

Lebanon is on the verge of economic collapse amid political paralysis and an ongoing protest movement.

 

A man in Lebanon tried to self-immolate during a protest in Beirut on Saturday, the Lebanese Red Cross said, before protesters extinguished the flames.

Protesters in Riad al-Solh Square smothered the flames with jackets and blankets, an AFP photographer said.

The man, who did not lose consciousness, was evacuated in a Red Cross ambulance.

“A man set fire to himself, a Lebanese Red Cross team intervened,” the organisation wrote on Twitter.

The official ANI news agency reported that a man in his forties had doused himself in petrol before setting himself alight.

While the reason for his action was not known, Lebanon is on the verge of economic collapse amid political paralysis and an ongoing protest movement.

On Saturday, dozens gathered in the central Riad al-Solh Square for another demonstration against the country’s ruling elite.

Protests began on October 17, mobilising hundreds of thousands of Lebanese demanding an end to corruption and incompetent leadership.

Lebanon’s financial situation, already precarious before the protests, has deteriorated markedly since. In recent weeks, thousands of people have lost their jobs or had their salaries slashed.

Several cases of suicide have been reported in recent days, with financial difficulties believed to be a motivating factor.

In February, a Lebanese man died from severe burns after setting himself on fire at his daughter’s school over a fee dispute with the management.

The World Bank has warned of an impending recession that may see the proportion of people living in poverty climb from a third to half the population.

Unemployment, already above 30 per cent for young people, would also increase, it has said.

Outgoing Prime Minister Saad Hariri asked Arab and Western allies for financial help on Friday.

An $11 billion (10 billion euro) aid package pledged at a conference dubbed CEDRE in Paris in April 2018 has not been unlocked by donors for lack of reform.

 

AFP