Former Nissan Exec Carlos Ghosn Set Free On Bail, But Could Ultimately Spend 10 Years In Prison

Authorities released Ghosn after 108 days in custody

Former Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance CEO Carlos Ghosn. [Photo: Nissan]

A Japanese court rejected attempts to keep Ghosn in custody after he won bail.

Former Nissan executive Carlos Ghosn was released from the Tokyo jail where he was being held Wednesday, after posting a cash bail of 1 billion yen ($8.9 billion). The ousted chairman of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance walked free after more than three months in jail since his November 2018 arrest. According to an Automotive News report, he was led from the building in workman’s clothing, a blue cap, and a surgical mask by a swarm of guards in an alleged attempt to conceal his identity. As hundreds of journalists crowded the detention center to capture his release, Ghosn’s saga enters its next chapter as he continues to mount his defense.

Ghosn faces trial on three counts of financial misconduct while at Nissan. Reports suggest he and alleged co-conspirator Greg Kelly worked to hide some $80 million in deferred compensation on financial reports. Kelly was released on bail December 25. Both men are restricted from leaving Japan as one of the conditions for their release. On top of the misconduct, Ghosn also faces a separate indictment for beach of trust. In that charge, prosecutors allege he temporarily moved $16.5 million worth of personal swap contract losses to Nissan, then had Nissan pay $14.7 million to Ghosn’s business associate. That associate allegedly helped Ghosn facilitate the shift in personal losses onto Nissan, as well as Nissan’s payment.

Both men could face up to 10 years in prison

If he’s found guilty, Ghosn could land in prison for up to 10 years. Both he and Kelly have denied the charges against them, calling the charges “meritless and unsubstantiated”. Ghosn further called his detention a “terrible ordeal” in a released statement and thanked his family and friends for supporting him. “I am innocent and totally committed to vigorously defending myself in a fair trial against these meritless and unsubstantiated accusations,” he said.

Carlos Ghosn indicted on new charges
Ghosn faces up to 10 years in prison, should he be convicted on his outstanding charges. [Photo: Nissan]

Hostage justice?

Ghosn has not been the only one under scrutiny during his 108 days in detention. Ghosn’s lawyer, Junichiro Hironaka, said it could still be months until a trial, according to Automotive News. Not only that, but he also blasted the Japanese legal system’s handling of Ghosn’s arrest and detention. Hironaka called it “hostage justice”, and said the ordeal would impact Japan’s standing in the court of international opinion.

The courts approved Ghosn’s bail following international pressure mounted against Japan’s justice system. Under the current structure, Japanese authorities can detain suspects for weeks without charge. Not only that, but they can subject people to lengthy interrogations without their attorneys present, and impose high bail amounts to pressure those people toward confessions, while they would otherwise maintain their innocence. International parties contend that practice is out of step with legal norms.

Ghosn and Kelly are still technically part of Nissan

While both men have been ousted from their former positions at Nissan, they are still on the company’s board of directors. As it happens, they can only be removed from that position through a shareholder vote. Nissan has scheduled what it calls an “extraordinary shareholders meeting” on April 8, 2019. In that meeting, a vote will take place on whether to remove the two men from Nissan’s board.

Under the terms of Ghosn’s release, he must live in a court-approved residence. His actions will also be monitored through video surveillance, and he cannot leave Japan. His interactions with other people will also be restricted.