TOKYO -- Embattled former Nissan Chairman Carlos Ghosn has walked free from jail for a second time after a Japanese court approved his release on 500 million-yen ($4.5 million) bail.
Dressed in a dark suit and open-collared white dress shirt, Ghosn left the Tokyo Detention Center shortly before 10:30 p.m. local time on Thursday, hours after the Tokyo District Court made its decision. Television footage of his release showed a determined-looking Ghosn walking calmly into an awaiting Toyota van and being whisked past hordes of awaiting journalists into the darkness.
The court approved his release that morning, and Ghosn posted bail in the early afternoon. But his release was delayed in part by a last-ditch effort by prosecutors to appeal the decision. That appeal was rejected, clearing Ghosn's way to freedom and allowing him to better prepare for the legal battle ahead on charges of financial misconduct during his time at Nissan.
As a condition of Thursday's bail, a Tokyo court stipulated that Ghosn cannot meet or otherwise communicate with his wife Carole without prior permission, his defense lawyer told Reuters.
Carole Ghosn has been critical of the treatment she and her husband received from Japanese prosecutors when they re-arrested Ghosn at their small apartment in Tokyo earlier this month on charges of aggravated breach of trust.
“I am grateful that bail has been granted and thankful for my family and supporters in Japan and around the world who fought for my release,” Ghosn said in a statement after leaving jail.
"No person should ever be indefinitely held in solitary confinement for the purpose of being forced into making a confession. But restricting communications and contact between my wife and me is cruel and unnecessary. We love each other very much, she answered all of the prosecutors’ questions in court, and she has done nothing wrong."
“I maintain my innocence and am committed to vigorously defending myself against these meritless and unsubstantiated accusations,” he said. “I hope to be given a fair trial where the truth will come to light and I will be fully vindicated.”
Ghosn, 65, had 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 followed 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.
The April 25 release lacked much of the drama of release the month before. At that time, he walked free from the detention center disguised as a workman in a ruse to throw off paparazzi.
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 maintains his innocence in all charges. But the latest accusation escalates the legal jeopardy facing Ghosn as he awaits trial in Tokyo.
Ghosn’s supporters say the grueling interrogations are designed to force a false confession.
“No person should ever be indefinitely held in solitary confinement for the purpose of being forced into making a confession,” Ghosn said.
The latest accusation escalates the legal jeopardy facing Ghosn as he awaits trial.
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.
Reuters contributed to this report.