Japan unexpectedly grants ex-Nissan boss bail after months behind bars


Carlos Ghosn, the former Nissan chairman and Renault CEO, paid one of the largest bail fees in the history of Japan - 1 billion yen, or R130 million - to leave jail Wednesday after 108 days.

At about 4:30 pm local time, Ghosn left the Tokyo Detention House wearing a mask often used by Japanese who have a cold, as well as a uniform with reflective strips like those used by highway workers. Helicopters carrying cameramen from Japanese television stations followed his small van through the city as he travelled to the office of his lawyer.

"I am innocent and totally committed to vigorously defending myself in a fair trial against these meritless and unsubstantiated accusations", Ghosn said in a statement released a day earlier through his representative in the United States, as quoted by media outlets here.

Prosecutors have made it clear that Ghosn is to get no special treatment.

Nissan is set to hold an extraordinary shareholders' meeting on April 8 to remove Ghosn completely from the board and welcome Renault Chairman Jean-Dominique Senard, who assumed the post in January, as a new member.

The court rejects an appeal by prosecutors against the bail decision, in a move that paves the way for Ghosn's release.

On Monday, the head of his defence, Junichiro Hironaka, said he was optimistic Mr Ghosn would be granted bail. Ghosn was arrested in November and is charged with falsifying financial reports and breach of trust.

Shortly after the arrest, Ghosn was ousted from his executive positions in Nissan, Renault and Mitsubishi Motors.

The timing of Ghosn's release allows him to spend his 65th birthday, on Saturday, with family.

Hironaka referred to his client's long detention as an example of Japan's system of "hostage justice", and accused prosecutors of "lacking in balance" by bringing charges against Ghosn while declining to bring charges against Toshiba executives after a larger accounting scandal in 2015.

A towering figure once revered in Japan for turning around Nissan's fortunes, Ghosn also forged a successful alliance between Nissan, Mitsubishi Motors and France's Renault.

The man who once stood at the head of the world's top-selling auto alliance paid his hefty bail bond "in cash", according to the Tokyo District Court.

The case has sparked criticism of Japan's criminal justice system and some of its practices, including keeping suspects in detention for long periods and prohibiting defence lawyers from being present during interrogations, which can last eight hours a day.

The release would allow Ghosn - the architect of Nissan's automaking partnership with France's Renault and one of the industry's most celebrated executives - to meet his lawyers frequently and build a defense ahead of his trial.

- Dec 21: New allegations - Prosecutors re-arrest Ghosn over fresh allegations that he transferred losses from personal financial investments to Nissan, apparently dashing his hopes of early release. They also name payments to a Saudi businessman that he says were for legitimate services. Le Maire said the "solidity" of that future was of tremendous importance. Hironaka has said he is in good spirits.

"I am boundlessly grateful to my family and friends for backing me through this bad ordeal", he added in the statement released by his lawyers in Paris.