Carlos Ghosn’s daring escape from Japan to Lebanon may have cast light on his wealth and influence, but in Beirut the ex-Nissan boss can only get a few hundred dollars a week from the bank because of the country’s deep financial crisis.
Lebanon, Ghosn’s childhood home, is in the throes of the worst financial and economic emergency in decades, with a shortage of dollars leading the Lebanese pound to slump and banks to tightly restrict savers’ access to their deposits.
Asked in an interview with a Lebanese broadcaster on Thursday if he would be willing to transfer his money to Lebanese banks, Ghosn said: “What is this question?”
“You know that if we move money to Lebanon we can no longer use it. I have investment in Lebanon and I have money in the Lebanese banks and – like all the Lebanese citizens – I can only withdraw $250 or $300 a week,” he told Al Jadeed TV.
“My situation is like the situation of all Lebanese.”
Ghosn, 65, fled Japan last month as he was awaiting trial on charges of underreporting earnings, breach of trust and misappropriation of company funds, all of which he denies.
Lebanon’s economic crisis has led firms to slash jobs or cut salaries and hours. The World Bank has warned the poverty rate could hit 50% if economic conditions worsen.
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One of the root causes of the crisis is rampant corruption and waste in the state, one of the world’s most heavily indebted.
Ghosn has said he would be willing to use his expertise to help Lebanon if asked, but he does not want a position or to get into politics.
Leading Lebanese politician Walid Jumblatt, in a Twitter post on Thursday, proposed Ghosn as minister of energy, a state-run sector that bleeds public funds while failing to meet Lebanon’s power needs.
Ghosn, in his interview, said he was honored by Jumblatt’s suggestion. “I thank him, but I don’t think it is on the table,” he said.