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Ex-Nissan, Renault boss Ghosn leaves prison on bail, vows to to fight 'meritless' charges

Behrouz Mehri, AFP | Former Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn (C) is escorted as he walks out of the Tokyo Detention House following his release on bail in Tokyo on March 6, 2019.

Ousted Nissan and Renault boss Carlos Ghosn was released from jail on Wednesday after posting $9 million in bail, giving the executive fresh impetus to craft his defence against financial misconduct charges in Japan.

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The former titan of the global auto industry was released from the Tokyo Detention House, where he has been confined to a small, unheated room since he was arrested on November 19 on charges Ghosn has described as "meritless".

The Tokyo District Court said Ghosn has paid the 1 billion yen ($9 million) bail, among the highest ever in Japan, after it rejected a last-ditch appeal by prosecutors to keep him in jail.

Earlier on Wednesday, a car from the Embassy of France, where Ghosn holds nationality, arrived at the detention centre as media helicopters swirled overhead. Hundreds of reporters, photographers and TV crews were gathered outside the facility, many of whom had camped overnight to secure positions.

Ghosn, also the former chairman of Renault and Mitsubishi Motors, was granted bail after he gave assurances that he would remain in Tokyo, surrender his passport to his lawyer and submit to extensive surveillance.

He has agreed to set up cameras at the entrances and exits to his residence, and is prohibited from using the internet or sending and receiving text messages. Ghosn is also banned from communicating with parties involved in his case, and permitted computer access only at his lawyer's office.

He faces charges of aggravated breach of trust and under-reporting his compensation by about $82 million at Nissan for nearly a decade. If convicted on all charges, he faces a maximum sentence of up to 15 years in jail, prosecutors have said.

"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.

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire commented on Ghosn’s release on Wednesday, telling reporters that, "it's vital that we respect the principle of the presumption of innocence and give everyone the chance to defend themselves.”

Lawyer nicknamed 'The Razor'

The release would allow Ghosn - the architect of Nissan's automaking partnership with Renault and Mitsubishi - to meet his new legal team frequently and build a defence ahead of trial.

Last month Ghosn hired lawyer Junichiro Hironaka, nicknamed "the Razor" for his success at winning acquittals in several high-profile cases, to replace Motonari Otsuru, who once ran the prosecutor's office investigating him.

Hironaka's appointment suggests a shift to a more aggressive defence strategy. He has already said that the charges against Ghosn should have been dealt as an internal company matter and that Japan was out of step with international norms by keeping his client in jail.

The case has cast a harsh light on Japan's criminal justice system, which allows suspects to be detained for long periods and prohibits defence lawyers from being present during interrogations that can last eight hours a day.

While the bail is a significant step, Ghosn still faces a criminal justice system with a conviction rate of 99.9 percent.

Credited with reviving Nissan in the early 2000s, Ghosn was one of the auto industry's most powerful figures as head of the Nissan-Renault-Mitsubishi alliance, whose combined sales rank it as one of the world's biggest automakers.

At the time of his arrest, he had been seeking a full merger of the companies, an idea opposed by many Nissan executives.

However, his arrest has since muddied the outlook for the alliance, which is based on a web of cross-shareholding and operational integration.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, REUTERS)

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