A billboard shows solidarity with Carlos Ghosn on a highway in Beirut, Lebanon, on December 4 2018. Picture: REUTERS/MOHAMED AZAKIR
A billboard shows solidarity with Carlos Ghosn on a highway in Beirut, Lebanon, on December 4 2018. Picture: REUTERS/MOHAMED AZAKIR

Lebanese woke up to bright billboards of ousted Nissan chair Carlos Ghosn posted around Beirut on Thursday, in the latest show of support for the detained business person of Lebanese origin.

The Brazilian-born entrepreneur is feted in Lebanon as a model of international success, and many were shocked by his arrest in Japan in November over alleged financial misconduct.

“We are all Carlos Ghosn,” the digital billboards declared, under a large mosaic portrait of the 64-year-old tycoon, who is held in a Japanese prison.

Dany Kamal, managing partner at the Lebanese advertising firm that put them up, said the 18 billboards are a “personal initiative” as he is an acquaintance of Ghosn. “It’s just a campaign against injustice,” he said. “Until proven otherwise, Carlos is not guilty.”

Ghosn spent his childhood years in Lebanon and has regularly travelled back and forth to the tiny Mediterranean country. The Lebanese authorities have repeatedly honoured him, and in 2017 Ghosn’s portrait even appeared on a postal stamp.

Several Lebanese officials have expressed solidarity with Ghosn since his arrest on November 19, even as he denies allegations that he underreported his pay by millions of dollars. 

“A Lebanese phoenix will not be scorched by a Japanese sun,” interior minister Nohad Machnouk declared.

Foreign minister Gibran Bassil received the Japanese ambassador, Matahiro Yamaguchi, in November to inquire about the circumstances of Ghosn’s arrest and the conditions of his detention, the ministry said.

Ghosn faces an array of claims involving hiding money and benefits he received while chair of Nissan and head of an alliance between the Japanese firm, Mitsubishi Motors and France’s Renault.

While Mitsubishi Motors and Nissan have removed Ghosn, he remains chair and CEO of Renault.

On social media, some in Lebanon have clamoured that Ghosn is innocent, while others have seen his arrest as an example of better accountability in other countries. “May all the gangs of thieves in Lebanon meet the same fate,” one Lebanese social media user wrote online.