Ghosn lawyer says bail 'very difficult' before trial

Pedestrians pass by a television screen showing a news program featuring former Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn. Former Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn said he had been "wrongly accused and unfairly detained" at a high-profile court hearing.
Pedestrians pass by a television screen showing a news program featuring former Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn. Former Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn said he had been "wrongly accused and unfairly detained" at a high-profile court hearing.
Image: Behrouz MEHRI / AFP

It will be "very difficult" to win bail for former Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn before trial and it could take six months before his case reaches court, his lawyer said Tuesday.

Motonari Otsuru, speaking shortly after Ghosn made his first public appearance in a Tokyo courtroom since his shock November arrest, said he would nonetheless apply to end the businessman's detention later today.

Ghosn has been held in a Tokyo detention centre since his November 19 arrest, and faces three sets of allegations of financial misconduct.

In court on Tuesday he protested his innocence and said all his actions at Nissan had been legal and approved by the appropriate executives.

But Ghosn appears unlikely to win release anytime soon, as Japan's justice system allows prosecutors to seek lengthy pre-trial detention as well as further detention periods to investigate allegations even before pressing charges.

"We are uncertain in this case as to what will happen. However, in general in such cases in Japan it is indeed the case that bail is not approved before the first trial does take place," Otsuru told reporters at a press briefing.

"It would be indeed a very difficult situation to expect bail before trial."

"I believe it could be considered that at least six months will be needed before being able to go to the first trial," he added, citing the complexity of the case and the fact that the documents involved are in both Japanese and English.

'Calm and logical'

He said nonetheless that he would apply later Tuesday to end Ghosn's detention, though he gave little indication he expected the application to be successful.

The auto tycoon has seen his detention repeatedly extended and his requests for release denied since his arrest on a first set of allegations of under-reporting his salary.

He has now been charged with those accusations, and prosecutors have levelled other allegations involving further under-reporting of his pay and a complex scheme in which he allegedly tried to transfer losses to Nissan and used company funds to compensate a business contact who put up collateral.

Otsuru also said Ghosn had been moved to a larger cell with a Western-style bed, but was not being permitted to receive visits from his family.

Ghosn's current detention period on the third set of allegations against him ends on January 11, and Otsuru said it was likely prosecutors would indict him.

They could also rearrest Ghosn on additional allegations, or in theory allow him to seek bail.

Otsuru denied reports that Ghosn had been pressured to sign a confession in Japanese, insisting all interrogations and documents were translated.

"Not once has Mr Ghosn said to us he has any concerns about being asked to sign something in a language he doesn't understand."

And he said the businessman used their regular meetings to focus on the case, making no mention of any discomfort he might be in.

"He's very calm and logical in his current situation."

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