Business

Carlos Ghosn's Japan legal team optimistic that Tokyo court will grant ex-Nissan chief bail this time

by Satoshi Sugiyama

Staff Writer

One of the lawyers representing Carlos Ghosn said Monday he is optimistic the Tokyo District Court will soon grant bail to the former Nissan Motor Co. chairman.

Speculation is running high that the court will issue a decision in the next few days on whether to let Ghosn out of the Tokyo Detention House.

“I believe that his potential time of release could be in the near future,” attorney Junichiro Hironaka said during a news conference in Tokyo.

He added that he plans to file an appeal if the request is rejected.

Hironaka held the news conference only days after his legal team submitted Ghosn’s third request for bail. The request, submitted Thursday, was the first since Hironaka joined the defense team and the latest bid to secure the conditional release of the ousted 64-year-old Brazilian-born French auto executive.

The court rejected the previous two applications after prosecutors filed fresh charges against him.

Hironaka revealed that the legal team is examining part of the evidence shared by prosecutors last week, and that they cited in the bail proposal Ghosn’s limited ability to communicate with people on the outside.

“If he were to be released on bail, we have suggested further measures that will ensure his activities can be closely monitored while he is free,” he said.

Hironaka revealed little more than he did in his previous news conference on Feb. 20, going only as far as to speculate — without offering any concrete evidence — that much higher authorities, such as the Japanese and French governments, are entangled in the case.

His primary tasks, Hironaka said, are to respond to the prosecutors’ arguments and to focus on the allegations facing Ghosn.

Ghosn reshuffled his legal team in mid-February, which is when Hironaka came onboard. Hironaka is well-known for defending high-profile figures, including Diet member Ichiro Ozawa, who was accused of misusing political funds.

Ghosn was arrested Nov. 19 on suspicion of underreporting his income. He was taken into custody by officers from the Tokyo District Public Prosecutor’s Office after he arrived aboard a private jet at Haneda airport.

He was subsequently placed under arrest and charged with two additional counts of financial misconduct, including aggravated breach of trust, when he allegedly transferred private investment losses to Nissan during the 2008 global financial crisis.

Hironaka said if the alleged financial misconduct took place 10 years ago, Nissan would have been aware of it then.

“I feel it’s peculiar for what purpose did the company report those allegations to the prosecutors as criminal acts at this moment,” he said.

In his first news conference as Ghosn’s attorney on Feb. 20, Hironaka insisted the former Nissan chairman was innocent based on his “gut feeling” as an experienced attorney and warned his arrest could send a chilling message to foreign business executives and deter them from working with Japanese companies.

On Sunday, Ghosn’s children indirectly rebutted a claim by Nissan President and CEO Hiroto Saikawa, who questioned Ghosn’s loyalty and respect for Japan and Japanese society in a magazine interview.

“Our father has always loved Japan and Nissan, where he devoted nearly 20 years of his life,” Caroline, Nadine, Maya and Anthony Ghosn said in their joint statement. “It is extremely disappointing that a long-trusted co-worker of my father’s would slander him by claiming falsely that my father does not love and respect Japan.”

Hironaka, who earned the nickname “Razor” for successes in winning not-guilty verdicts in high-profile cases, jokingly said he is looking forward to defending Ghosn.

“I am now 73 years old; however I want to test how sharp my razor is,” he said.

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