Moments before launching into his raucous news conference in Beirut earlier this month, Carlos Ghosn was enthusiastically greeted by a throng of local journalists who crowded around his lectern, taking turns to embrace the fallen automotive titan and snapping souvenir selfies.

Ghosn happily returned the warm feelings. During his 2½-hour tirade, he heaped praise on Lebanon, where he fled to at the end of December, while unleashing a bitter broadside at the Japanese establishment that he says tried to destroy him.

"Today, I am proud to be Lebanese," Ghosn told a packed room in Arabic, the local crowd erupting in the first of many waves of cheers and applause. "Because if there is a country that stood by me amid such difficulties, it is Lebanon."