BEIRUT – The Lebanese government is highly likely to have been involved in former Nissan Motor Co. Chairman Carlos Ghosn’s escape earlier this week to Lebanon from Japan, where he was awaiting trial on bail, according to local news reports and other sources.
Lebanese President Michel Aoun has reportedly promised protection to Ghosn as a Lebanese citizen and met with the former leader of the Japanese automaker, who was accused of financial misconduct in Japan, soon after he arrived in Lebanon on Monday.
In its Arabic version on Wednesday, The Independent, a British newspaper, quoted a Lebanese government source as saying that Lebanese security and government officials were aware of Ghosn’s escape plan at least a few weeks in advance.
A Lebanese broadcaster reported that some of Ghosn’s close friends greeted him at an airport in Beirut and that he later met with the Lebanese president.
But the Lebanese government has officially denied its involvement. A senior official of the Lebanese president’s office said that Ghosn has not come to the office and has not met the president.
A source in the Lebanese Foreign Ministry said that Ghosn entered Lebanon legally.
On Dec. 20 last year, Aoun held talks in Lebanon with visiting Japanese State Minister for Foreign Affairs Keisuke Suzuki. In the meeting, the president called on Japan to allow Ghosn to return to Lebanon, informed sources said.
According to the sources, Ghosn, who was also chairman of French auto giant Renault SA, is regarded as a hero in Lebanon, especially among Maronite Christians, for his big success as a businessman in France and Japan. Ghosn and Aoun are both Maronite Christians.