Carlos Ghosn disguised as construction worker as released from Tokyo jail

Former Nissan chairman controversially spent 108 days in detention

A man presumed to be former Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn, centre, leaves Tokyo Detention Centre on Wednesday. Photograph: AP

A man presumed to be former Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn, centre, leaves Tokyo Detention Centre on Wednesday. Photograph: AP

 

Carlos Ghosn, the fallen corporate titan who ran the world’s largest car alliance before his stunning arrest last November, has been freed on bail after 107 days in a cramped Tokyo cell.

Wearing a baseball hat and surgical mask, and flanked by prison officers, a visibly thinner Mr Ghosn got into a car and left the Tokyo Detention Centre on Wednesday afternoon.

The long-awaited release was broadcast live on Japanese television and watched by a small army of TV crews, reporters and photographers outside the centre.

Mr Ghosn, 64, was architect of the global car alliance that links Japanese firms Nissan with Mitsubishi Motors and French company Renault. He denies charges of under-reporting his Nissan income by about $82 million (€73 million) and aggravated breach of trust.

In prison interviews last month, he described the charges as “meritless” and accused Nissan’s management of engineering his arrest and ouster to block a controversial full merger with Renault, which is part owned by the French government.

Nissan’s board has long resented a lopsided corporate marriage that left Renault with a 43 per cent share of Nissan and a huge chunk of its annual profits. Nissan executives prodded the Japanese government to lobby Renault against the merger, according to The Financial Times.

Mr Ghosn’s release was engineered by his new legal team but was reportedly delayed while he struggled to find the billion yen (€7.9 million) bail. Prosecutors appealed the decision and may bring fresh charges to put him back behind bars.

The release allows Mr Ghosn’s lawyers to prepare for his day in court in the autumn. “I am innocent and totally committed to vigorously defending myself in a fair trial against these meritless and unsubstantiated accusations,” he said in a statement on Tuesday.

Stiff bail conditions

Mr Ghosn’s lawyers had to agree to stiff bail conditions, including virtual house arrest and the installation of security cameras at his Tokyo home. He must surrender his passport to his lawyer and has restricted use of mobile phone and personal computers. Prosecutors rejected two previous two previous attempts to bail him because they said he might flee the country or tamper with evidence.

Mr Ghosn’s long incarceration and relentless interrogation has gripped Japan and brought global scrutiny of its justice system. His lawyer, Junichiro Hironaka dubbed the system “hostage-based” on Monday because it depends overwhelmingly on extracting admissions of guilt during lengthy detention periods.

“In the past, prosecutors only make an indictment when they had evidence to find someone guilty,” he said. “Now if they do not feel confident that they have evidence, they continue to hold someone in detention. It’s extremely unfair.”

Confessions prop up most criminal cases in Japan. The conviction rate for indicted suspects is 99.8 per cent, closer to China than developed countries such as the Republic or the UK.

Mr Ghosn fired his previous legal team on February 13th. Mr Hironaka is known by the nickname “the razor” for his sharp defence of suspects in high-profile cases. The decision to grant bail is seen as a victory for his team - Japanese courts rarely free suspects who continue to deny their guilt.

Mr Hironaka said on Monday that the charges against Mr Ghosn, which include understating his income and offloading currency losses on the company during the global financial in 2008-09, were “peculiar” and did not stand up to scrutiny.

“Each of these issues took place 10 years ago. So what purpose are these cases as this late stage being put before prosecutors as criminal acts. We cannot be certain but when we use common sense they do not seem to be acts that would be subject to criminal prosecution.”

The list of Mr Ghosn’s bail conditions can be found here.