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Europe

Eye on France: More tough teriyaki for Carlos Ghosn

media Tough at the top: former Renault boss Carlos Ghosn now faces new charges and additional time in jail. REUTERS/Issei Kato/File Photo

As French President Emmanuel Macron prepares for his Paris meeting tomorrow with the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the news is not good from Tokyo on the judicial fate of former Renault motor boss, Carlos Ghosn.

Ghosn, as the world knows by now, has been in and out of the slammer near Tokyo for the past several months as Japanese police investigate various accusations against him.

Earlier today, the one-time saviour of the Nissan vehicle empire saw himself hit with new charges.

Already accused of fraudulently under-reporting his salary, using company funds to pay personal debts, and abusing his status as top company manager, Carlos is now charged with serious breaches of trust.

Keeping it in the family?

The latest case concerns the alleged transfer of millions of Nissan yen to an offshore account run by the motor magnate’s son, Anthony Ghosn.

Even Carlos’s missus, Carole Ghosn, could be in hot water since she appears to have been part of the exclusive yacht company which used twelve million euros worth of those mysteriously missing yen to finance the acquisition of a 37-metre luxury boat baptised “Shachou,” the Japanese word for “boss”. Cheeky!

Things have not been great in the Ghosn household for a few months now. But Le Monde quotes legal experts as suggesting that the billionaire boss is now in it, up to his plucked eyebrows.

There's no official mention of the case on the agenda for tomorrow's meeting between Macron and Abe. But they will be discussing bi-lateral trade. It would be surprising if Carlos Ghosn's name did not come up between the two men, even if only privately.

Nancy Huston gets hot under the collar about Notre-Dame

The Canadian novelist Nancy Huston, who has lived most of her life in Paris, is writing about Notre-Dame in Le Monde.

You might be inclined to say, “God, not more about burning buildings!” And I sympathise. But this is a bit different. And, as you’d expect, it’s wonderfully written.

Basically, Huston asks how, in a world which is supposed to have moved beyond religion, we can still be so affected by spiritual symbolism.

It’s a good question.

Because a lot of people have been surprised at the emotion which last week’s blaze provoked.

A wake-up call for our sense of wonder

Speaking for herself, Nancy Huston says the fire made her think of the cathedral as one might consider a much-loved but neglected grand-mother who’s just had a heart-attack . . . one has moved on, moved away, forgotten her moods, mishaps and mysteries, almost forgotten her, abandoned practically everything she stands for. But the fact that she nearly vanishes forever brings her importance suddenly back into sharp focus.

Huston describes herself as a non-believer and one who is relatively hostile to religious institutions in general.

But that does not stop her from dropping into all sorts of churches, mosques and temples which she recognizes as “special” places, dedicated to the sacred, suitable for a momentary withdrawal from the rush of the world.

We are all, she insists, creatures who need stories and symbols. And the buildings which surround city-dwellers inevitably become part of our identity.

Social contradictions and convictions

That’s about as far as she’ll take the lyricism. Then Nancy Huston gets angry.

We were told the country was bankrupt, she howls, and yet the re-building fund collected 850 million euros in three days. We were told we were non-religious. We turn out to be Catholics! Far from living in a society free of ostensible religion, suddenly it became OK for people to pray on Parisian streets. So much for the rational, Cartesian, logical foundations of French life.

The myths burst like sparks in night sky, and spread with the smoke billowing across the city: depending on who you were, or who you were talking to, those myths had names like Heritage, Heroism, Miracle, Tourism, Destiny, Generosity, the Middle Ages, the Monarchy.

But perhaps the crucial questions are elsewhere: what do we consider to be precious? What values do we stand for?

Huston wonders what Jesus would have made of the event and its various aftermaths. How would he who championed the poor, the hungry, the sick, the defeated, the downtrodden, the outcast have viewed the rapid collection of a huge sum of money . . . for a building?

Perhaps, Nancy Huston concludes, we need to rebuild not just the roof of a famous Paris landmark but also our own confidence in the reality of things and feelings that we can’t necessarily explain.

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