BEIRUT -- A Lebanese lawyer seeking an investigation into Carlos Ghosn's dealings in Israel thinks local public opinion has turned against the former Nissan Motor chairman, countering a widespread perception that Lebanon is a welcoming safe haven.
"The majority of the Lebanese people are angry about him because of his relations with Israel," Hassan Bazzi told Nikkei in an exclusive interview. He and other lawyers have asked a local court to prosecute Ghosn for violating Lebanon's ban on visits to and commercial transactions with its neighbor and sworn enemy.
While Bazzi conceded that Ghosn does enjoy support in the country where he grew up, he insisted the fugitive executive is not universally beloved. He also suggested a recent wave of popular unrest could spur the authorities to pursue the case.
"Anti-government protests continue in Lebanon and the government listens to people more than before," Bazzi said, adding, "This will help my case in a good way."
Breaking the anti-Israel law can result in a 10-year prison sentence. Bazzi says Ghosn visited Israel multiple times and conducted business deals there from 2008 to 2017.
Bazzi told Nikkei the authorities could decide whether to launch an investigation "as early as Tuesday." This could open up a new front in Ghosn's legal battle just days after he jumped bail in Japan, where he was awaiting trial for alleged financial misconduct. He also faces an investigation in France.
The ousted Nissan boss, however, is known to have extensive connections to the inner circle of Lebanon's government -- a possible obstacle for Bazzi and his allies.