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Nissan's Ghosn crisis

Carlos Ghosn released from jail, but separated from wife

Former Nissan chairman says restriction is cruel and unnecessary

Former Nissan Chairman Carlos Ghosn leaves the Tokyo Detention House in Tokyo on Thursday.   © Reuters

TOKYO -- Former Nissan Motor Chairman Carlos Ghosn walked out of jail on Thursday night after the Tokyo District Court rejected an appeal by prosecutors to reverse its decision to grant bail.

Local television showed Ghosn, who was arrested for the fourth time in early April, leaving the building in a suit and white shirt before climbing into a black car.

His posture was a stark contrast to that of his previous release in early March, when he wore gray work clothes, a blue cap and a mask. One of his lawyers had acknowledged that the plot, intended to disguise Ghosn, had been a failure.

As one of the conditions of the bail granted earlier on Thursday, Ghosn has been separated from his wife.

The Brazilian-born tycoon is barred from contacting Carole Ghosn unless he notifies the court of the time and place he intends to speak to her. The condition was set because the latest allegation involves suspicions of an indirect transfer of Nissan funds to a company where she is president. Carole Ghosn was questioned as a witness in the investigation but not charged.

"I am grateful that bail has been granted," Ghosn said in a statement after his release. However, "restricting communications and contact between my wife and me is cruel and unnecessary," he added, maintaining that he is innocent and that he is committed to "vigorously defending [himself] against these meritless and unsubstantiated accusations."

The decision to limit Ghosn's contact with his wife is expected to spark a new wave of criticism over the workings of Japanese justice. Ghosn's first detention on previous charges lasted 108 days, during which he was barred from contact with his family for two months. "This is a huge human rights issue," said Takashi Takano, one of Ghosn's defense lawyers.

His release will allow his defense team to better prepare for trial on a string of allegations of financial misconduct. The latest charge brought by prosecutors earlier this month is expected to delay the scheduled September start date.

"It is extremely regrettable that a Tokyo court approved bail," said Shin Kukimoto, deputy chief prosecutor for the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office in a statement, as "there is risk of tampering with evidence."

Ghosn was arrested for the fourth time in early April on a new charge of aggravated breach of trust, barely a month after being released on bail of 1 billion yen ($8.9 million) for previous indictments. He had been held for 108 days and was charged with a series of offenses including underreporting his compensation and aggravated breach of trust.

The court set bail for the latest charge at 500 million yen, which was paid immediately. The previous bail conditions -- including security camera surveillance at the entrance to his apartment, restricted use of the internet and surrendering his three passports -- are expected to continue.

The additional charge of aggravated breach of trust relates to payments made to a distributor in Oman, totaling $15 million, between December 2015 and July 2018. Around $5 million was allegedly channeled to Good Faith Investments, a Lebanese investment company said to be controlled by Ghosn.

Prosecutors also believe that part of this payment was transferred to Beauty Yachts, Carole Ghosn's company based in the British Virgin Islands, and used for purchasing a luxury yacht. Shogun Investments, an American company managed by his son Anthony Ghosn, is also suspected of receiving money from GFI.

Ghosn denies all wrongdoing.

Ghosn's lawyers and the prosecution will begin pretrial proceedings on May 23. They will outline their main arguments and list the witnesses they intend to call at the main trial.

Ghosn's defense lawyer Junichiro Hironaka insisted during a news conference on April 4, the day of Ghosn's fourth arrest, that the latest allegation is "the last trump card." He believes that this is the final charge his client will face. Hironaka also told reporters that the trial could take more than two years.

The defense team has asked that Ghosn be tried separately from Nissan, which is facing charges of failing to report his compensation, and Greg Kelly, a former board member who was also arrested on suspicion of misconduct last November.

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