Japan court OK’s Nissan ex-Chairman Ghosn’s release on bail
TOKYO (AP) — A Tokyo court approved the release of former Nissan Chairman Carlos Ghosn on 1 billion yen ($8.9 million) bail on Tuesday, rejecting an appeal by prosecutors to keep him jailed, a lawyer for the auto executive said.
He could be freed as soon as Wednesday morning, according to Japan’s Kyodo News.
Jean-Yves Le Borgne, Ghosn’s French lawyer, said a court issued a late-night ruling rejecting prosecutors’ appeal of the initial ruling. Le Borgne cautioned that prosecutors still had leeway to file new charges as they had done once before.
Ghosn said in a written statement that he is grateful for his family, friends and human rights activists from around the world who have helped him.
“I am innocent and totally committed to vigorously defending myself in a fair trial against these meritless and unsubstantiated accusations,” he said in the statement issued Tuesday.
The former head of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Motors alliance has been detained since he was arrested on Nov. 19. He says he is innocent of charges of falsifying financial information and of breach of trust.
His Japanese lawyer, Junichiro Hironaka, is famous for winning acquittals in Japan, a nation where the conviction rate is 99 percent.
Hironaka said the legal team “proposed concrete ways showing how he would not tamper with evidence or try to flee.”
Hironaka said Monday that he had offered new ways to monitor Ghosn after his release, such as camera surveillance. Hironaka also questioned the grounds for Ghosn’s arrest, calling the case “very peculiar,” and suggesting it could have been dealt with as an internal company matter.
In Japan, suspects are routinely detained for months, often until their trials start. That’s especially true of those who insist on their innocence.
The 1 billion yen bail set by the court was relatively high but not the highest ever in Japan.
Among the conditions for Ghosn’s release were restrictions on where he can live, his mobile phone use, as well as a ban on foreign travel and contact with Nissan executives, according to Kyodo News.
Prosecutors say suspects may tamper with evidence and shouldn’t be released. Two previous requests submitted by his legal team were denied.
Hironaka is among many critics of the Japanese justice system who say such lengthy detentions of suspects are unfair. He referred to the situation as “hostage justice.”
Ghosn is charged with falsifying financial reports by under-reporting compensation that he contends was never paid or decided upon. The breach of trust allegations center on a temporary transfer of Ghosn’s investment losses to Nissan’s books that he says caused no losses to the automaker. They also name payments to a Saudi businessman that he says were for legitimate services.
Ghosn’s family had appealed for his release, calling his detention a human rights violation.
Nissan Motor Co. declined comment on the criminal case but said it was working on strengthening corporate governance. Nissan has dismissed Ghosn as chairman, although he remains on the board pending a decision at a shareholders’ meeting.
“Nissan’s internal investigation has uncovered substantial evidence of blatantly unethical conduct,” company spokesman Nick Maxfield said.
Yuri Kageyama is on Twitter at https://twitter.com/yurikageyama
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Sylvie Corbet and Lori Hinnant in Paris contributed to this report.