Ever since, Mr. Ghosn has lived the Lebanese dream. If the Lebanese are not, as the billboards had it, “all Carlos Ghosn,” there were many who may have wanted to be.
Generations of Lebanese have left the country, fleeing civil war, instability and an economy that offers little to young people, to make their fortunes abroad. Mr. Ghosn was a paragon of that path: prestigious schools in Paris, promotions at Michelin in France and then the United States, the chairmanship of a multicontinent auto empire including Nissan, Mitsubishi and Renault. There were homes in Tokyo, in the 16th arrondissement of Paris and in Rio, plus a private jet to carry him there.
But throughout his global rise, Mr. Ghosn remained proudly Lebanese, and the Lebanese proud of him. His first and second wives are both Lebanese. He graduated from the middle-class neighborhood of his childhood to Achrafieh, Beirut’s grandest community, where he kept an immaculate pink villa — which, an internal Nissan investigation found, a company subsidiary had bought for $8.75 million and renovated for a further $6 million, one of several properties around the world the subsidiary had paid for Mr. Ghosn to use.
In February, Mr. Karam, the Lebanese television host, aired a 47-minute special on Mr. Ghosn, lionizing his career and lamenting his fall.
“The legend of the car world is currently in cold, solitary prison,” Mr. Karam said at the end, quoting the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
“Carlos Ghosn,” Mr. Karam continued, “you’re not alone.”
On Tuesday, a private security guard stood outside the pink mansion, but Mr. Ghosn was not to be seen. He had issued a statement through a spokeswoman announcing that he would “no longer be held hostage by a rigged Japanese justice system.”
He added: “I have not fled justice — I have escaped injustice and political persecution.”
In fleeing Japan for Lebanon, Mr. Ghosn has traded a country where the rigidity of the justice system has come under scrutiny for one where the judiciary is notoriously politicized and the rule of law notoriously fickle. But the same atmosphere of impunity that may help him is under attack from some of the very people who once celebrated him as a folk hero.