Ex-Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn granted bail by Tokyo court

Ex-Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn granted bail by Tokyo court

In a surprise overnight decision, a Japanese district court has set bail for the ousted boss at 1bn yen (£6.8m).

The Tokyo District Court confirmed the 1 billion yen ($11.9 million Cdn) bail was posted earlier in the day, after a judge rejected an appeal from prosecutors requesting his continued detention.

On Monday the head of his defence, Junichiro Hironaka, said he was optimistic he would be granted bail.

Ghosn, 64, had been detained in the Tokyo Detention House in the Kosuge district since he was arrested on November 19 by the special investigation squad of the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office on suspicion of understating his remuneration in the company's annual securities reports.

In a written statement released Tuesday by his communications agency, Ghosn says he is "also grateful to the NGOs and human rights activists in Japan and around the world who fight for the cause of presumption of innocence and a fair trial". But shortly after Ghosn's arrest, Nissan CEO Hiroto Saikawa said he held too much power in the company.

In Japan, suspects are frequently kept in detention for long periods and defense lawyers are prohibited from being present during interrogations, which can last eight hours a day.

The court had previously justified Ghosn's ongoing detention by saying he posed a flight risk and could seek to destroy evidence, so Hironaka's bail request offered restrictions meant to win the court's trust.

Ghosn was once a prolific figure in the automotive industry, and is admired for helping save Nissan from the brink of bankruptcy in the late 1990s, which included a strategic partnership with the French automaker Renault in 1999.

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Ghosn had earned a reputation as one of the auto industry's top executives after turning around the fortunes of both Renault and Nissan, and bringing the two companies together in a three-way alliance with Mitsubishi.

While Ghosn is enjoying his first hours of liberty after almost four months in solitary confinement, his lawyers have cautioned that prosecutors still have leeway to file new charges.

Public opinion likely played a role in the court's decision to grant bail, along with assurances from Ghosn's lawyers that he was prepared to be under any restraint, said Shin Ushijima, a former prosecutor and lawyer. Japanese authorities charged Ghosn with under-reporting his compensation of millions of dollars for years, as well as transferring personal investment losses to the carmaker. If convicted on all charges, Mr Ghosn faces up to 15 years in jail. They also name payments to a Saudi businessman that he says were for legitimate services.

In his only court appearance, he said in January he looked forward to his trial to "finally have the opportunity to defend myself".

Hironaka is known for his successes in winning acquittals in high-profile cases in the country where the conviction rate was around 98 percent in 2017 and 2018. Ghosn thanked his family and friends, who, he said, 'stood by me throughout this bad ordeal'.

Alighting from the tiny, non-descript van used to convey him out of the detention center, having shed his mask and hat, Ghosn smiled. He remains a member of the board at Renault until the annual shareholders' meeting in June.

It was not clear whether the appeal by prosecutors will be approved or rejected.

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