As news surrounding Nissan Motor Co. Chairman Carlos Ghosn’s arrest on suspicion of having understated his income dominated social media in Japan, a curious phenomenon was emerging on Twitter: Mr. Bean, the goofball lead character played by Rowan Atkinson in the namesake British sitcom, was trending on the social network.
Why? Because of the embattled auto executive’s apparent resemblance to the character.
Japanese-language Twitter seemed to be in on the joke, with the hashtag #Mrビーン (#MrBīn) exploding into the social network’s top trending hashtags, having been mentioned more than 33,000 times as of 9:45 p.m., just hours after news of the impending arrest had emerged.
“I thought, ‘We’ll soon learn the reason why Carlos Ghosn was arrested,’ but upon closer inspection, it was Mr. Bean,” joked Twitter user @azi_blueline.
Another person said the trend exemplified the eccentricities that he loved about Japan.
“I ❤️ Japan. Here’s one crazy reason why: Mr Bean is trending on Japanese Twitter because he “resembles” Ghosn, Curtis Chin, a former U.S. ambassador to and member of the Board of Directors of the Asian Development Bank, wrote on Twitter.
Nissan said in a statement that it had been conducting an internal investigation based on a whistleblower report over the past several months regarding misconduct involving Ghosn and Representative Director Greg Kelly.
It said the probe had shown “that over many years both Ghosn and Kelly have been reporting compensation amounts in the Tokyo Stock Exchange securities report that were less than the actual amount, in order to reduce the disclosed amount of Carlos Ghosn’s compensation.”
The statement added that “numerous other significant acts of misconduct” by Ghosn had also been uncovered, including the personal use of company assets, and that Kelly’s “deep involvement” had also been confirmed.”
Ghosn, a rare foreign top executive in Japan, has been favorably regarded for having turned Nissan’s business around from near bankruptcy, and is one of the best-paid executives among his peers at other Japanese companies.
His looming removal was likely to severely impact not only the carmaker, but the auto industry as a whole.
Still, some users jokingly held out hope that the real culprit was not the embattled Ghosn.
“Chairman Ghosn, this is where I hope you explain, ‘It wasn’t me, it was Mr. Bean,’” wrote Twitter user @yangzerstoerung.