Tokyo court denies ex-Nissan chief Ghosn's bail request

Ghosn is likely to stay behind bars for the foreseeable future. [Photo: AFP]
Carlos Ghosn is likely to remain in Japanese custody for the foreseeable future after a Tokyo court denied him bail Tuesday despite a last-ditch personal appeal by the former Nissan boss, as Renault set a date to replace him.

The court's decision was expected as it had previously judged him to be a flight risk who could potentially tamper with evidence. Even Ghosn's own lawyer has said his client would likely remain in jail until his trial.

Ever since his arrest out of the blue on November 19 on allegations of financial misconduct, Ghosn's case has been a rollercoaster ride that has gripped Japan and the business world.

In the latest twist, French firm Renault said it would hold a board meeting Thursday to name his replacement to run the company.

Earlier, a public pledge by the auto tycoon to stay in Japan and wear an electronic tag if necessary appeared to have left the Tokyo District Court unmoved.

In a public statement on Monday, Ghosn had set out a series of steps he hoped would convince the court he was not about to flee Japan.

He vowed to hand over his three passports, wear an electronic tagging device and increase the amount of bail money offered.

Ghosn also promised to hire security guards approved by prosecutors to monitor him and said he would not contact anyone connected with the case.

"As the court considers my bail application, I want to emphasise that I will reside in Japan and respect any and all bail conditions the court concludes are warranted," Ghosn said in a statement released by his US-based representatives.

He vowed to attend any subsequent trial "not only because I am legally obligated to do so, but because I am eager to finally have the opportunity to defend myself."

Ghosn has repeatedly denied all the charges against him.

However, an official at the Japanese justice ministry told AFP: "There is no system in Japan in which a person accused in a criminal case can be released with such a tracking bracelet.

"The court sets the bail sum and can also add appropriate conditions such as limitations on where the accused should stay," the official added.

- 'Harsh' conditions -

Ghosn was technically in pre-trial detention after being slapped with three separate charges -- all of which he denies.

Prosecutors believe he under-declared his income in official statements to shareholders between 2010 and 2015 to the tune of some five billion yen ($46 million) in an apparent attempt to avoid accusations that he was overpaid.

A second separate but very similar charge is that he continued to do this between 2015 and 2018, under-reporting his income by a further four billion yen.

He also faces a complex charge of seeking to shift personal investment losses onto Nissan's books and transferring company funds to a Saudi contact who allegedly stumped up collateral for him.

Since his arrest, he has been seen in public only once, in a dramatic court appearance where the much thinner executive pleaded his innocence in a packed courtroom.

His wife Carole has appealed to Human Rights Watch, claiming he is being held in "harsh" conditions and subjected to round-the-clock interrogations intended to extract a confession.

- Renault sets date for Ghosn ousting -

Ghosn's arrest has thrown into question the future of the auto alliance he forged, which has come under pressure in his absence.

Nissan immediately ousted him as chairman after the arrest, as did Mitsubishi Motors, the other Japanese firm in the three-way alliance with Renault.

Sources in Paris close to Renault's leadership discussions told AFP that the company would put forward chief operating officer Thierry Bollore, who has been running the company in Ghosn's absence, to replace Ghosn as chief executive and Michelin chief Jean-Dominique Senard as board chairman. Ghosn currently holds both roles.

The French government, Renault's biggest shareholder with a stake of more than 15 percent, is particularly keen to see the company appoint a new leader.

French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire said Tuesday that Senard would make an "excellent" chairman, in comments on BFMTV television.

He also backed the division of powers once held by Ghosn alone into the separate roles of chief executive and board chairman.

Late Sunday, Nissan held an inaugural meeting of a special committee designed to improve governance in the wake of the scandal.

The head of the committee, Seiichiro Nishioka, said the problem was "an excessive concentration of authority in the hands of a single person".

The committee is expected to meet three or four additional times before issuing a final report at the end of March.

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x-Nissan chiefCarlos GhosnRenaultTokyo court