A Japanese court approved 500 million yen ($4.5 million) bail for embattled former Nissan Chairman Carlos Ghosn, clearing the way for his release from jail for a second time.
The Tokyo District Court announced the decision on Thursday, three days after prosecutors indicted Ghosn for a fourth time on alleged financial misconduct during his time at Nissan’s helm.
Ghosn has been in detention since April 4 when he was picked up on new charges of allegedly misappropriating some $5 million from Nissan for personal use.
His 21-day detention follows an earlier 108-day lockup after his initial Nov. 19 arrest. He was released from his first stint in jail on March 6 after paying 1 billion yen ($8.9 million) in bail.
It was not immediately clear when Ghosn would be released. The Tokyo court confirmed that Ghosn had paid the bail amount by early afternoon. But prosecutors appealed the decision.
In the previous case, it took more than 24 hours to make the bail payment and other arrangements before Ghosn walked free from the detention center disguised as a workman before hundreds of waiting journalists.
During his latest detention, Ghosn lawyer Takashi Takano says Ghosn was subjected to almost 72 hours of questioning in the absences of his lawyers, a practice allowed under Japanese law.
The questioning came every day until his indictment, including Saturdays and Sundays, sometimes running as late 10 p.m. Ghosn’s lawyers advised him to stay silent and answer with pat responses such as, "I don't have anything to say" and "This is waste of time."
Ghosn, 65, maintains his innocence in all charges. But the latest accusation escalates the legal jeopardy facing Nissan's former chairman as he awaits trial in Tokyo.
The April 22 aggravated breach of trust indictment accuses Ghosn of causing financial damage to Nissan by diverting $5 million to his own pocket.
Prosecutors say Ghosn took $2.5 million in July 2017 and $2.5 million in July 2018 by siphoning money through a third company "virtually owned by him." The funds were first paid by a Nissan subsidiary to a Nissan overseas distributor and then sent to the third company, prosecutors allege.
In their arrest document, prosecutors said Ghosn arranged to have some $15 million transferred from the wholly owned Nissan subsidiary to a bank of an overseas sales representative from December 2015 through July 2018. Ghosn then received a portion of those funds for his personal use through a bank account of the third company.
Prosecutors said $5 million of the transfers was diverted back to Ghosn, and they allege the same amount of financial damage was incurred to Nissan.
Ghosn had already been indicted on three previous charges, two for allegedly misreporting tens of millions of dollars in deferred compensation and a third concerning alleged breach of trust.
He faces up to 15 years in prison if found guilty.
In the first two indictments, Ghosn is charged with falsifying company financial filings to hide some $80 million in deferred compensation.
Ghosn's breach of trust charge alleges that he temporarily shifted 1.85 billion yen ($16.5 million) in personal swap contract losses to Nissan and had Nissan pay $14.7 million out of the CEO Reserve to a business associate who allegedly helped Ghosn clear the red ink.
Ghosn, in a statement released after his latest arrest, maintained his innocence and vowed he "would not be broken." He called the latest arrest "outrageous and arbitrary."
In a video message released earlier this month, Ghosn said he was the victim of a boardroom coup instigated by “backstabbing” Nissan executives concerned about his plans to merge Nissan with its French partner Renault, the Japanese company’s biggest shareholder.
"This is not about greed. This is not about dictatorship. This is about a plot. This is about conspiracy. This is about backstabbing," Ghosn said in the video, filmed before his April 4 arrest.
"There was first a fear that the next step of the alliance, in terms of convergence and in terms of moving toward a merger, would, in a certain way, threaten some people or eventually threaten the autonomy of Nissan,” he said. "I'm talking about people who really played a very dirty game.”
The latest indictment focuses on results of an internal Nissan investigation that found Ghosn approved payments of around $35 million from Nissan to a distributor in Oman from 2011 to 2018. The disbursements went to Suhail Bahwan Automobiles, which is run by billionaire Suhail Bahwan, a friend of Ghosn's, according to someone familiar with the matter.
The company distributes Nissan vehicles in the region.
Nissan's probe found some evidence suggesting Suhail Bahwan Automobiles may have supported Ghosn's purchase of a yacht and helped finance a company owned by Ghosn's son.
Japanese media reports said that Ghosn paid Suhail Bahwan Automobiles out of his CEO Reserve, a special fund for ad hoc expenses. The disbursements were marked as marketing expenses, but prosecutors suspect they were channeled into personal use for such things as the purchase of a yacht and a 3 billion yen ($26.8 million) personal loan to Ghosn.
Renault has also reportedly alerted French prosecutors after uncovering suspect payments to a Renault-Nissan business partner in Oman while Ghosn was CEO of the French automaker.