National / Crime & Legal

After Carlos Ghosn's dramatic escape, former minister says Japan should overhaul bail system

by Isabel Reynolds

Bloomberg

Japan should introduce a more relaxed bail system but step up its surveillance of defendants in criminal cases to prevent a repeat of the dramatic escape by fallen auto titan Carlos Ghosn, a former Cabinet minister and Tokyo governor said Tuesday.

Despite bail conditions intended to restrict his movements ahead of a trial for alleged financial misconduct, Ghosn took a bullet train from Tokyo to Osaka, where he fled the country aboard a private jet late last month.

“When considering bail, the prosecutors and courts only think about destruction of evidence,” Yoichi Masuzoe said by phone. “They didn’t think about Ghosn escaping. That was their biggest mistake.”

The bail conditions — including barring Ghosn from talking to his wife without permission — were inhumane, according to Masuzoe, who said he had met the former Nissan and Renault chief several times.

Japan should ease bail rules in line with Western norms and introduce GPS tracking or other systems to monitor suspects ahead of trial, he said.

“To put it simply, the bail system should be made much more relaxed and humane, but surveillance should be much stricter. I am concerned, though, that people will push to have the bail system made harsher after this kind of incident,” the former health minister and governor of Tokyo said.

Transport minister Kazuyoshi Akaba told reporters that major airports will now check large cases, following reports that Ghosn was carried aboard the plane hidden inside a large box intended for transporting audio equipment.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said in a television interview Monday night that Japan will do what is necessary, after establishing the facts, to prevent such an incident from occurring again in the future.

Itsunori Onodera, a former defense minister and now head of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s research commission on national security, said Tuesday that Japan should be concerned about the impact of the forthcoming “attacks” that Ghosn will level at Japan’s reputation.

“Ghosn is likely to heavily attack Japan’s systems or its corporate culture,” Onodera told Bloomberg News. “Those remarks will be transmitted to the world and inflict large damage on Japan. We should be worried not just about his escape, but also about the impact” of his remarks, he said. The government should respond appropriately, he said.

Masuzoe said he thinks that Lebanese diplomats or government officials must have been involved in the planning of Ghosn’s flight in some capacity. His tweets on the topic prompted the Lebanese ambassador to issue a denial, according to Arab News.

Masuzoe, who resigned as governor after allegations surfaced that he had misused public funds, added that he does not see the possibility of Lebanon returning Ghosn for trial.

Interpol has issued a wanted notice for his arrest on behalf of Japan.