Carlos Ghosn, jailed for more than 100 days, set to be released on bail


TOKYO, March 6 () - Former Nissan Motor Co Chairman Carlos Ghosn was set to be released on an $8.9 million bail on Wednesday, giving the once-feted executive fresh impetus to build a defence against what he has called "meritless" financial misconduct charges.

Ghosn, a former titan of the global auto industry, was expected to leave the Tokyo Detention House after a court late on Tuesday rejected a last-minute attempt by prosecutors to keep him in prison, where he has spent more than 100 days detained in a small, unheated room since his Nov. 19 arrest.

Early on Wednesday, a car from the Embassy of France, where Ghosn holds nationality, arrived at the detention centre in eastern Tokyo as media helicopters swirled overhead. Hundreds of reporters, photographers and TV crews were gathered outside the facility, many of whom had camped overnight to secure positions.

Ghosn has also agreed to set up cameras at the entrances and exits to his residence, and is prohibited from using the internet or sending and receiving text messages. He is banned from communicating with parties involved in his case, and permitted computer access only at his lawyer's office.

He faces charges of aggravated breach of trust and under-reporting his compensation to the tune of $82 million at Nissan for nearly a decade. If convicted on all charges, Ghosn faces up to 10 years in jail.

"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.

Release would allow Ghosn, who turns 65 on Saturday, to meet his new legal team more frequently and build a defence ahead of his trial.

Last month he hired lawyer Junichiro Hironaka, nicknamed "the Razor" for his success at winning acquittals in several high-profile cases. Hironaka has said he will take a different approach to Ghosn's initial legal team, suggesting a more aggressive defence strategy.

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

Though the granting of bail represents a significant development, 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 vehicle 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. However, his arrest has since muddied the outlook for the alliance, which is based on a web of cross-shareholding and operational integration.

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