BEIRUT: Carlos Ghosn, the fugitive Nissan-Renault boss who fled Japan claiming he feared for his life, had “entered Lebanon legally and is not wanted by the Lebanese judiciary,” a security source told Arab News.
Ghosn reportedly fled house arrest in Japan in a musical instrument case as part of an audacious escape organized by his wife, Carole. He then flew to Lebanon via Istanbul on a private jet, arriving late on Sunday.
The 65-year-old confirmed his presence in Beirut in a statement on Tuesday: “I am now in Lebanon and will no longer be held hostage by a rigged Japanese justice system where guilt is presumed. I have not fled justice. I have escaped injustice and political persecution. I can now finally communicate freely with the media, and look forward to starting next week.”
Lebanon’s General Security Directorate said in a statement that “the mentioned citizen entered Lebanon legally, and no measures require action or legal prosecution against him.”
Salim Jreissati, former justice minister, said that Ghosn “entered legally via Beirut Rafic Hariri International Airport using his French passport and Lebanese ID.”
News of Ghosn’s flight from Japan, where he was under strict house arrest awaiting trial on charges of financial misconduct, surprised the world. He had surrendered his passports to his Japanese lawyers, who expressed shock at his escape and confirmed they are no longer able to contact him.
After landing in Beirut, Ghosn, who is of Lebanese origin, did not return to his house in the capital, which is under security measures. Instead he visited a home belonging to his wife Carole’s parents.
His wife left Japan last April and said then that she felt in danger after testifying as a witness before the Japanese judiciary. Her Lebanese passport was confiscated, but she left with an American document.
Ghosn’s escape is thought to have been carried out by former special services officers who entered his home in Japan under the guise of a band for Christmas celebrations. When they left, Ghosn hid in a music instrument transport box, and flew out of Japan from a local airport.
The former auto boss was arrested at a Tokyo airport in November 2018 in relation to charges of financial misconduct and illegal personal gains.
Nissan later sacked Ghosn after saying that that it had found “various acts of misconduct, including personal use of company assets.”
Ghosn, who holds Brazilian and French nationalities, was nicknamed “Mr. Fix It” after overseeing Nissan’s financial turnaround. The US business magazine Fortune named him “Asia Businessman of the Year,” and said he was one of the top 10 businessmen outside the US in 2003.
News of Ghosn’s arrival in Lebanon drew widespread comment on social media platforms.
“All Lebanon needed was the arrival of a fugitive,” one activist tweeted.
Another, referring to the country’s liquidity crisis, asked sarcastically: “Could Ghosn’s punishment be his return to Lebanon and living on his weekly dollar withdrawals?”
Another activist said: “Welcome to Lebanon. They are all corrupt, not only you. Are you ambitious to become president maybe?”
Meanwhile, Agnes Pannier-Runacher, France’s junior economy minister, said: “No one is above the law, but Ghosn would be able to get French consular support as a French citizen.”