Business / Corporate

Carlos Ghosn released from detention center, days after his fourth indictment

by Satoshi Sugiyama

Staff Writer

Despite facing the most serious charges yet in his ongoing legal saga, former Nissan Motor Co. Chairman Carlos Ghosn was granted bail for the second time on Thursday by the Tokyo District Court and was released from the Tokyo Detention House.

Thursday’s bail was set at ¥500 million, which was already paid by Ghosn.

Earlier in the day prosecutors filed an objection but the court rejected it. The court made the decision partly because it determined there was no risk of evidence tampering, legal experts have said.

“He had already established, after a great deal of time and effort on the part of his lawyers, that he was not a risk to escape or to tamper with evidence or witnesses,” said Stephen Givens, a Tokyo-based corporate lawyer.

It is not immediately clear what his new bail conditions are, but Kyodo News reported that they will include Ghosn not being allowed to see his wife Carole Ghosn — a striking restriction. Media reports have suggested her involvement in the latest accusation against him, and allegations that she may have attempted to tamper with evidence. She is not subject to any charges and has denied any wrongdoing.

Domestic media this week reported that prosecutors had sought, unsuccessfully, to block Carole Ghosn from seeing Carlos Ghosn during his detention.

They also claimed she had contacted key witnesses in connection to the latest allegation while she was in France earlier this month, according to the media reports.

It’s possible the defense team may have offered such conditions in order to play down court concerns that Carlos Ghosn may try to suppress evidence by conspiring with his wife.

Ghosn was indicted Monday on a charge of misappropriating the company’s money for personal use, for which he had already been rearrested earlier this month while on bail.

Specifically, he is accused of expropriating a Nissan subsidiary’s payments to a distributor in Oman. Prosecutors claim part of the money, about ¥560 million, had been sent to Good Faith Investments, a Lebanese firm he effectively controlled, for his own interest.

Prosecutors also believe some of the money reported to have flowed to the Lebanese company was transferred to a firm in the Virgin Islands headed by Carole Ghosn, a Lebanese and American citizen, as well as a firm established by the couple’s son in the U.S., according to reports by Kyodo News.

Ghosn’s defense team filed a request for bail on the same day as the latest indictment, which is his fourth. Legal experts, including Givens, said the latest allegation is the most serious Ghosn has faced so far.Ghosn was previously granted bail in March. On March 6, he left the Tokyo Detention House, where he had spent 108 days in confinement, after paying ¥1 billion in bail. The former Nissan chairman has been accused of underreporting his income and causing the firm damage by transferring obligations on his personal investment losses. Since his initial arrest on Nov. 9, he has maintained his innocence.

Ahead of the March bail, Ghosn’s defense team had already offered to accept strict conditions in exchange for his release, such as an obligation to inform the court if he planned to travel domestically for more than three days. In addition, the conditions said he would only be able to use a computer at the office of one of his lawyers between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. on weekdays.

Ghosn was rearrested on April 4 in connection with the latest charge. The prosecutors justified the arrest with the argument that Ghosn may attempt to destroy evidence connected to the accusation.

His defense team was outraged by the arrest, in particular the prosecutors’ early morning raid in which they confiscated documents that Ghosn was preparing for his upcoming trial and his wife’s personal items, including her cell phone and passport. Rearresting an individual who has been released on bail is a highly unusual move, according to legal experts interviewed by The Japan Times.

“In theory, as long as there isn’t imminent risk of him fleeing or being rearrested, the court has to grant bail,” said Yoshikazu Tagami, a corporate lawyer in based in Tokyo and an executive officer of Bengo4.com, Inc., a legal portal site. “It wouldn’t make sense if he were not released on bail.”