Business / Corporate

Lawyer for Ghosn says 'outrageous' bail rules on seeing wife violate Japan's Constitution

AFP-JIJI

A lawyer for former Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn has slammed “outrageous” restrictions on his client’s ability to see his wife and predicted the tycoon’s trial will not start for at least a year.

In an interview, Takashi Takano revealed that the top court this week backed a lower court’s decision to restrict Ghosn’s access to his wife Carole under the terms of his bail.

The former Nissan chief was bailed for a second time on April 25 and is now preparing for trial on four charges of financial misconduct ranging from concealing part of his salary, to using Nissan funds for personal expenses.

The tough terms of his bail mean he needs court permission to visit his wife, Carole, whom prosecutors believe has made contact with people involved in the case against the tycoon.

Ghosn applied for permission shortly after his release, but was denied.

His lawyers separately filed an appeal to overturn the restrictions altogether, but the Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected that appeal, Takano said.

“It’s inhumane. It’s outrageous, even by Japanese standards,” Takano said.

The longtime attorney said it was the first time in his career he had seen a court ban a client from seeing their spouse.

“It’s very rare,” he said at an interview in his Tokyo office, arguing that the restrictions violate the U.N.’s International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

“This is a clear violation of our own Constitution as well as a violation of the human rights treaty, which our government ratified … (a) long time ago,” he added.

Ghosn’s case has gripped observers inside Japan and internationally since his dramatic Nov. 19 arrest as he stepped off his private jet in Tokyo.

He was detained for 108 days as prosecutors investigated financial misconduct allegations and then charged him on three counts.

He finally won bail for the first time in March, agreeing to conditions including living in a court-appointed residence monitored by cameras.

But when prosecutors leveled a fresh allegation against him in April, he was rearrested and spent another 21 days at the Tokyo Detention House before winning bail a second time.

Ghosn is due to attend his first pretrial meeting with judges and prosecutors on Thursday as part of procedures dealing with evidence and arguments ahead of a trial, Takano said.

“There are four indictments and those cases are a little bit complicated,” he said.

“And this process will last, I think, at least one more year” before the trial begins, he added.

Ghosn denies all the charges against him and has vowed to “vigorously defend himself against these baseless accusations,” Takano said, adding he “fully expects to be vindicated.”

He argues the allegations against him are the result of a “plot” by Nissan executives who were opposed to his plans to bring the Japanese firm closer to its alliance partner Renault.

Ghosn has been stripped of his leadership positions at Nissan, Renault and the third firm in the auto alliance, Mitsubishi Motors.

Takano said the 65-year-old was in “good fighting spirits” but that his health appeared fragile.

“He looks depressed and he is so disappointed to know that he could not communicate with his wife,” Takano said.

“His mental as well as physical condition looks not so good now,” Takano said without elaborating.