Japan court OK's Nissan ex-chairman Ghosn's release on bail

The Tokyo District Court approved the release of former Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn on nearly $12 million Cdn bail on Tuesday, ending nearly four months of detention.

Ghosn is accused of falsifying financial information and breach of trust

Carlos Ghosn, seen in this 2018 file photo, maintained his innocence as he sought bail. (Kim Cheung/Associated Press)

The Tokyo District Court approved the release of former Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn on 1 billion yen (nearly $12 million Cdn) bail on Tuesday, although the end of his four months of detention in Japan was delayed when prosecutors appealed that decision.

Prosecutors filed their objection to Ghosn's release within hours of the announcement that he was going to be granted bail, but the court later rejected the appeal, paving the way for Ghosn to leave the Tokyo Detention Center as early as Wednesday.

The acceptance of Ghosn's request for bail, his third, came a day after one of his lawyers said he was confident the auto executive would gain his release.

The newly hired attorney, Junichiro Hironaka, is famous for winning acquittals in Japan, a nation where the conviction rate is 99 per cent.

Hironaka said Monday that he had offered new ways to monitor Ghosn after his release, such as camera surveillance. Hironaka also questioned the grounds for Ghosn's arrest, calling the case "very peculiar," and suggesting the case could have been dealt with as an internal company matter.

He welcomed the decision, telling reporters: "It was good we proposed concrete ways showing how he would not tamper with evidence or try to flee."

The bail set by the court is relatively high but not the highest ever in Japan.

The former head of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Motors alliance has been detained since he was arrested on Nov. 19. He says he is innocent of charges of falsifying financial information and of breach of trust.

In Japan, suspects are routinely detained for months, often until their trials start. That's especially true of those who insist on their innocence.

Prosecutors say suspects may tamper with evidence and shouldn't be released.

Two previous requests submitted by Ghosn's legal team were denied. His previous defence lawyer, Motonari Ohtsuru, had said Ghosn's release might not come for months.

Hironaka is among many critics of the Japanese justice system who say such lengthy detentions of suspects are unfair. He referred to the situation as "hostage justice."

Accused of fraud, breach of trust 

Ghosn is charged with falsifying financial reports by under-reporting compensation that he contends was never paid or decided upon. The breach of trust allegations centre on a temporary transfer of Ghosn's investment losses to Nissan's books that he says caused no losses to the automaker. They also name payments to a Saudi businessman that he says were for legitimate services.

Ghosn's family had appealed for his release, calling his detention a human rights violation.

Junichiro Hironaka, lawyer for former Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn, called the case against his client 'very peculiar.' (Behrouz Mehri/AFP/Getty Images)

Nissan Motor Co. declined comment on the criminal case but said it was working on strengthening corporate governance. Nissan has dismissed Ghosn as chairman, although he remains on the board pending a decision at a shareholders' meeting.

"Nissan's internal investigation has uncovered substantial evidence of blatantly unethical conduct," company spokesperson Nick Maxfield said.