Ghosn freed on bail in cap, face mask after 108 days in Tokyo jail

TOKYO • Carlos Ghosn walked out of a Tokyo prison on bail after 108 days in detention, vowing to fight allegations of financial crimes that could imprison the former Nissan Motor Co Ltd chairman for as long as a decade.

Flanked by police officers and wearing construction worker reflectors, a light blue baseball cap, a face mask and eyeglasses, Ghosn climbed into a silver Suzuki van and left the detention centre where he’d been locked up since his Nov 19 arrest.

A Tokyo court on Tuesday granted his release and subsequently upheld its decision after an appeal by prosecutors. His bail of ¥1 billion (RM36.4 million) is among the highest ever in Japan.

Getting out on bail allows Ghosn to prepare for a trial that’s likely months away. His surprise arrest and imprisonment on allegations of financial misdeeds roiled the two-decade auto alliance between Nissan and Renault SA and cast a harsh light on aspects of Japan’s legal system.

Ghosn initially wasn’t granted access to lawyers and had two previous bail applications rejected.

“I am innocent and totally committed to vigorously defending myself in a fair trial against these meritless and unsubstantiated accusations,” Ghosn, 64, said earlier in a statement.

Charges against Ghosn:

• Aggravated breach of trust for acts related to payments — from a pool of money that only he had the authority to use — to a company controlled by the automaker’s Saudi Arabian business partner, Khaled Juffali.

• Filing false statements to regulators regarding about US$80 million (RM327.23 million) in deferred income during his time as Nissan’s chairman.

Ghosn’s bail conditions:

• Must reside in Japan and cannot travel abroad.

• Must agree to having cameras at the exit and entrance of his home.

• Will have restrictions in using his mobile phone.

• Must agree not to access the Internet.

• Must not contact people involved in the case.

• Can only use the computer at his lawyer’s office during business hours.

“There will be very intense surveillance,” Francois Zimeray, a French lawyer representing Ghosn’s wife and four children, told Europe 1 radio yesterday. “It’s not total liberty. But compared to the nightmare of his incarceration, with minimal rights in the Kosuge jail, for him it’s an improvement.”

Ghosn’s arrest rocked the world’s biggest auto alliance — which includes Mitsubishi Motors Corp — at a time when the industry globally is wrestling with an array of challenges, from slowing sales in key markets such as the US and China to long-term technological change requiring massive investment. Long the glue bin-ding the partnership together, Ghosn was chairman of all three companies, CEO of Renault and head of the alliance before his arrest.

In prison, Ghosn endured frequent interrogation by prosecutors and had only limited contact with his legal team and family. The case put Japan’s justice system under scrutiny, leading to criticism of its reliance on defendants’ confessions, which often are made without a lawyer present.

Ghosn’s lead lawyer, Junichiro Hironaka, previously said the case raises questions about the fairness of Japan’s legal system, repeating a statement by the International Federation for Human Rights. He also has suggested the arrest was the result of a conspiracy inside the automaker, though he didn’t name any Nissan officials.

“Nissan does not have any role in decisions made by courts or prosecutors, and is therefore not in a position to offer a comment,” Nicholas Maxfield, a spokesman for the carmaker, said on Tuesday in an email. — Bloomberg