Ex-Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn gets bail after prolonged detention

Tokyo court sets bail at $9m, but prosecutors appeal decision with Ghosn facing charges of financial misconduct.

    Junichiro Hironaka, chief lawyer of former Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn, at a news conference in Tokyo on Monday [Issei Kato/Reuters]
    Junichiro Hironaka, chief lawyer of former Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn, at a news conference in Tokyo on Monday [Issei Kato/Reuters]

    A court in Japan has granted bail to Carlos Ghosn, the former chairman of Nissan who is accused of financial misconduct, after more than three months in detention, his lawyer said.

    The Tokyo court on Tuesday set bail at one billion yen ($9m), but later in the day, prosecutors appealed the bail decision.

    The ex-chairman of Nissan, Mitsubishi and France's Renault has been in custody at a detention centre in the Japanese capital since his arrest last November.

    Ghosn is charged with under-reporting his compensation at Nissan for nearly a decade until 2018, as well as charges of aggravated breach of trust. He has denied wrongdoing.

    The surprise decision came a day after Ghosn's newly appointed legal team, led by lawyer Junichiro Hironaka, told reporters he filed a "convincing" application for bail that contained fresh elements.

    Hironaka, who has a reputation for securing acquittals for high-profile clients in a country where almost all court cases end in conviction, offered greater surveillance of Ghosn and a limit on his electronic communications to win bail.

    The court has previously said Ghosn's continued detention was justified because he posed a flight risk and might try to tamper with evidence.

    Prosecutors have defended his detention while they investigate three charges of financial misconduct, two involving alleged under-reporting of his salary and a third over a complex scheme in which Ghosn allegedly sought to transfer his losses to Nissan's books.

    'Medieval rules'

    They are likely to appeal the bail decision.

    Under Japanese law, prosecutors can hold a suspect for up to 22 days while they investigate an allegation, and can apply for repeated one-month stretches of pre-trial detention for each charge that is eventually levelled.

    That means prosecutors could effectively prevent Ghosn from leaving detention despite Tuesday's bail decision if they level new allegations against him, starting the 22-day detention clock.

    On Monday, Ghosn's family said in a statement they would appeal to the United Nations Human Rights Council over the business tycoon's prolonged detention.

    In a statement read out by a lawyer representing Ghosn's wife, Carole, the family criticised Japan's "medieval rules". She had previously described her husband's detention conditions as "deplorable".

    Carlos Ghosn was a colossus of the global car industry before his arrest in November [File: Toru Hanai/Reuters]

    Ghosn's new lawyer Hironaka has vowed a "completely new legal strategy" to obtain his client's release.

    He has also questioned why Nissan brought a case to prosecutors over incidents that allegedly took place more than a decade ago.

    A towering figure in the world car industry, Ghosn is credited with reviving the fortunes of Nissan and forging a successful alliance between Nissan, Mitsubishi and Renault.

    But his attempts to deepen the alliance caused resentment in some quarters, and Ghosn has claimed the allegations against him are part of a "plot" by those who oppose greater integration.    

    Given the number of people involved in the complex case and their wide geographical spread, Hironaka said the case was likely to run over a "very long time span".

    However, he said prosecutors had begun handing over some of their evidence prior to a potential trial.

    SOURCE: News agencies