January 15, 2019 / 6:53 AM / 7 months ago

Tokyo court denies Nissan Ghosn's latest bail request

TOKYO (Reuters) - The Tokyo District Court on Tuesday denied former Nissan Motor Co Ltd Chairman Carlos Ghosn’s request for release on bail after his indictment last week on two new charges, making it likely the once-feted executive remains jailed for months.

FILE PHOTO: Carlos Ghosn, chairman and CEO of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance, attends the Tomorrow In Motion event on the eve of press day at the Paris Auto Show, in Paris, France, Oct.1, 2018. Picture taken Oct.1, 2018. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau/File Photo

Lawyers for Ghosn have appealed the decision and could receive a response within the next day.

Ghosn awaits a lengthy criminal trial that could be as long as six months away, his lawyers have said. It is rare in Japan for defendants who deny their charges to be granted bail ahead of trial.

The executive has remained in a detention center in Tokyo since Nov. 19, when he was first arrested on allegations of under-reporting his salary for five years through 2015.

The court did not give a reason for denying bail. At a hearing last week, when his lawyers asked for reasons for his continued detention, the court cited concerns that Ghosn would try to flee or tamper with evidence.

Ghosn was indicted on Friday on charges of aggravated breach of trust for temporarily transferring personal investment losses to Nissan in 2008, and understating his salary for three additional years through March 2018. He has denied the charges.

His arrest sent shockwaves through the auto industry and rocked Nissan’s alliance with Mitsubishi Motors Corp and France’s Renault SA.

Ghosn, who masterminded Nissan’s financial turnaround two decades ago, has since been removed from chairmanship positions at Nissan and Mitsubishi, but remains chairman and chief executive at Renault.

The French government, Renault’s biggest shareholder, said it supports Renault’s decision to keep Ghosn at its helm unless it becomes clear he will be “chronically incapacitated” by the Japanese investigation, officials said on Monday.

The prospect of a lengthy detention could increase pressure on the Renault board and shareholders including France’s government to appoint permanent new leadership for the carmaker.

Tuesday is likely to see “important developments” in relation to that question, one French official said.

UNDER SCRUTINY

The case has also put Japan’s criminal justice system under international scrutiny and sparked criticism for some of its practices, including keeping suspects in detention for long periods and prohibiting defense lawyers from being present during interrogations, which can last eight hours a day.

Ghosn’s wife, Carole Ghosn, has complained about her husband’s “harsh treatment” in detention, including being held in a small, unheated room and being pressured by prosecutors to confess, according to a letter she wrote to Human Rights Watch’s Japan director Kanae Doi.

She urged the group to “shine a light on the harsh treatment of my husband and the human rights-related inequities inflicted upon him by the Japanese justice system.”

Doi said in an e-mail to Reuters that the country’s justice system “certainly warrants the international pressure and attention it is getting now.”

Doi also forwarded a comment from Human Rights Watch Asia Director Brad Adams, who in an opinion piece published in the Diplomat magazine on Thursday said, “Ghosn’s case is emblematic of serious and longstanding problems in Japan’s criminal justice system, which affect ordinary Japanese citizens on a daily basis.”

Japan’s Ministry of Justice was unreachable for comment outside of business hours.

Reporting by Chang-Ran Kim, Naomi Tajitsu and Tim Kelly; Writing by Ritsuko Ando, Tim Kelly and Malcolm Foster; Editing by Christopher Cushing

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