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Ex-Nissan chair Carlos Ghosn leaves jail on $9M bail in financial misconduct case

He had been held in a Japanese detention center for more than 100 days on charges of falsifying financial information.
Image: A masked man, believed to be former Nissan Chairman Carlos Ghosn, leaves Tokyo's Detention Center
A masked man, believed to be former Nissan Chairman Carlos Ghosn, leaves Tokyo's Detention Center on Wednesday.Yu Nakajima / AP

TOKYO — Ousted Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn left prison on Wednesday after posting $9 million in bail, slipping past a throng of reporters in a blue cap and surgical mask after vowing to mount a defense against financial misconduct charges that he has called "meritless."

Surrounded by security guards and dressed in a workman's uniform and glasses, Ghosn was virtually unrecognizable from his usual suited self as he left Tokyo Detention House, where he was confined to a small cell with no heating for more than 100 days.

The former titan of the global auto industry paid the $9 million bail, among the highest ever in Japan, after the Tokyo District Court rejected a last-ditch appeal by prosecutors to keep him in jail.

Ghosn, also the former chairman of Renault and Mitsubishi Motors, has agreed to strict bail conditions and given assurances that he will remain in Tokyo, surrender his passport to his lawyer and submit to extensive surveillance.

He faces charges of aggravated breach of trust and under-reporting his salary by about $82 million at Nissan for nearly a decade. If convicted on all charges, he faces a maximum jail sentence of 15 years, prosecutors have said.

"I am innocent and totally committed to vigorously defending myself in a fair trial against these meritless and unsubstantiated accusations," he said in a statement on Tuesday.

The finance minister of France welcomed Ghosn's release, saying the executive would now be able to defend himself "with greater ease." Ghosn holds a French citizenship.

The release will allow Ghosn — the architect of Nissan's automaking partnership with Renault and Mitsubishi — to meet his new legal team more frequently and build a defense ahead of trial, which could be several months away.

The case has cast a harsh light on Japan's criminal justice system, which allows suspects to be detained for long periods and prohibits defense lawyers from being present during interrogations that can last eight hours a day.

While the bail is a significant step, Ghosn still faces a criminal justice system with a conviction rate of 99.9 percent.

Credited with reviving Nissan in the early 2000s, Ghosn was one of the auto industry's most powerful figures as head of the Nissan-Renault-Mitsubishi alliance, whose combined sales rank it as one of the world's biggest automakers.

At the time of his arrest, he had been seeking a full merger of the companies, an idea opposed by many Nissan executives.