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Monday January 20th, 2020 6:16AM

Nissan ex-chair Ghosn says he is innocent, ready for defense

By The Associated Press
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TOKYO (AP) — Former Nissan Chairman Carlos Ghosn may leave detention as early as Wednesday, after a Tokyo court approved his release on 1 billion yen ($8.9 million) bail, rejecting an appeal by prosecutors.

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

Ghosn's lawyer in Japan, Junichiro Hironaka, said the legal team offered conditions for his release, such as a surveillance camera at the doorway and a promise not to use the internet. He is allowed to make voice calls, but he cannot travel abroad.

The former head of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Motors alliance has been detained since November and is charged with falsifying financial reports and breach of trust.

Jean-Yves Le Borgne, Ghosn's French lawyer, cautioned that prosecutors still had leeway to file new charges.

Suspects in Japan are kept detained for months, especially those who insist on innocence like Ghosn. Some legal experts, including Hironaka, have criticized the system as "hostage justice," saying the long detentions tend to encourage false confessions.

Prosecutors say suspects may tamper with evidence and shouldn't be released. Two previous requests for Ghosn to be released on bail were denied.

Ghosn contends he is innocent of falsifying financial reports because the compensation he is alleged to have under-reported was never paid or decided upon. The breach of trust allegations center on a temporary transfer of Ghosn's investment losses to Nissan's books that he says caused no losses to the automaker. The charge also points to payments to a Saudi businessman that he says were for legitimate services.

A date for his trial has not yet been set.

Nissan Motor Co. declined comment on the criminal case but said an internal investigation had found unethical conduct. Nissan has dismissed Ghosn as chairman, although he remains on the board, pending a decision at a shareholders' meeting.

Ghosn's family has said that he has lost weight while in detention, and he looked thinner in his court appearance. Hironaka has said he is in good spirits. Ghosn thanked his family and friends, who, he said, "stood by me throughout this terrible ordeal."

___

Yuri Kageyama is on Twitter at https://twitter.com/yurikageyama

On Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/yurikageyama/?hl=en

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