Ghosn may get bail as court won’t extend detention

By BLOOMBERG

TOKYO • A Tokyo court rejected a request from prosecutors to extend Carlos Ghosn’s jail detention, giving the former Nissan Motor Co Ltd chairman a chance to seek bail and fight allegations of under-reporting of his income.

Ghosn’s lawyers said they plan to apply for bail, and that the car titan could be out as soon as today if the request is approved. Japanese prosecutors appealed the district court’s decision.

The arrest last month of the high-flying executive has rocked the world’s biggest auto alliance, raising questions over whether the partnership between Nissan and Renault SA will survive Ghosn’s downfall.

He was indicted on Dec 10 for under-reporting his income from Nissan in securities reports, a charge Ghosn has denied. The court kept extending his detention and his current tenure was due to end this week. They also rejected yesterday an extension for Ghosn aide Greg Kelly, who was arrested along with him.

Kelly’s lawyers plan to file for bail yesterday or today, Kyodo reported. The court decision could impact the investigation, said Shin Kukimoto, deputy chief prosecutor at the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office, declining to comment on whether his office would appeal to a higher court to annul the district court’s order. Nissan, which dismissed Ghosn as chairman after accusing him of understating income and using company money for personal use, declined to comment.

Ghosn is free to talk to the media when released, Kukimoto said.

“The chances of bail are very high,” said Nobuo Gohara, a lawyer and former prosecutor. “To begin with, this isn’t a case that should need such a lengthy detention.”

Ghosn, 64, has been widely credited with saving Nissan from failure and bringing it together with Renault. He stands accused of under-reporting his income by tens of millions of dollars after a months-long investigation by Nissan into his conduct and compensation that was largely kept from its French partner.

The lack of transparency and concern Nissan will use Ghosn’s absence to push for more power in the alliance has heightened tensions between the two automakers.

If Ghosn gets bail, his movements are likely to be restricted to his home or a hotel, and he’ll need the permission of the court if he wishes to leave the country, legal experts have said. Japan’s prosecutors have faced criticism for a lack of transparency in how they have handled the case.

If proven, Ghosn’s alleged offence may carry a sentence of as much as 10 years. The former Nissan chairman, who remains at the helm of Renault, has also been accused by Nissan of misusing company funds, including to buy homes from Brazil to Lebanon.