Lebanon News

Not so warm welcome for Ghosn in Lebanon

Ghosn and his wife Carole (R) leave the office of his lawyer in Tokyo. / AFP / Kazuhiro NOGI

BEIRUT: Carlos Ghosn, a Lebanese success story, returned to his roots to find it grown into a country of change, with much lower tolerance for corrupt politicians and multimillionaires. A celebrated hero, Ghosn, who was born in Brazil and raised in Lebanon, was viewed as a genius entrepreneur and was an idol to many Lebanese. However, with anti-corruption being the dominant national sentiment in Lebanon nowadays, some people are not happy with the former tycoon finding refuge in his home country Lebanon.

Nationwide protests had broken out on Oct. 17 against a corrupt ruling class accused of squandering public funds.

Ghosn, the former chief executive of Nissan and Renault, was charged with multiple financial crimes in late 2018 in Japan, including what the Lebanese people accuse their leaders of - illicit enrichment. He was awaiting his trial under house arrest in Japan before he escaped to Lebanon, a day before New Year’s Eve.

“Providing a safe haven for a renowned corrupt man is nothing short of what I would expect from the Lebanese government,” said Marwan, a graduate student of public policy and international affairs at the American University of Beirut.

When Ghosn was charged with financial misconduct back in December 2018, many in Lebanon showed support for him, as many looked up to Ghosn and viewed him as a brilliant entrepreneurial mind.

In late 2018, a billboard in Beirut expressed support to the then-detained Ghosn. It read “We are all Carlos Ghosn.”

Referring to that billboard campaign, Marwan said “I agree, they are all Carlos Ghosn: oligarchs, cronies, crooks and nepotists.”

Filmmaker and political activist Lucien Bourjeily said he was questioning why no investigations had taken place in Lebanon.

“There has been no investigation opened from the Lebanese authorities similar to the one opened in Turkey, which led to many arrests.”

“A man like him and the likes of him is the reason we are protesting in the first place,” said Ocean El Chaar, an engineer.

Despite heavy criticism of Ghosn for his apparent escape, some people showed support for the former Nissan chief.

A doctor, who was photographed leaving Ghosn’s residence in Achrafieh Thursday, told The Daily Star “hopefully he [Ghosn] is innocent.”

“From a humane perspective he shouldn’t have stayed in custody.”

Ghosn said in a statement on Dec. 31 that he would “no longer be held hostage by a rigged Japanese justice system.”

He added that “I have not fled justice - I have escaped injustice and political persecution.”

Fadi Abbas, a doctor, said in a tweet Monday “Carlos Ghosn he was able to save a [Japanese] car company, while no [Japanese] could & since his destitute, Nissan is in free fall and bankrupt. It was easy for him to run from the [Japanese] Respect to Carlos. Shame on [the Japanese].”

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on January 03, 2020, on page 3.

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