After spending more than three months in a Japanese jail cell, Carlos Ghosn could soon be freed.
Tokyo District Court on Tuesday said that Ghosn, the former chief of Nissan and Renault, could be released on bail of 1 billion yen ($9 million) with the conditions that he remain in Japan and be prevented from seeking to destroy evidence. Prosecutors appealed the decision but lost, clearing the way for Ghosn to be freed.
The auto executive is awaiting trial on charges he understated his income and abused his position by transferring personal investment losses to the Japanese carmaker. Ghosn denies all the charges. If found guilty, he could face as many as 15 years in prison.
One of the most prominent figures in the global auto industry, Ghosn was arrested by Japanese prosecutors on November 19. He has since been ousted from his role as the head of Nissan, Renault and Mitsubishi Motors, which together form the world's largest carmaking alliance.
His detention stunned the industry and strained the alliance, which makes one in nine cars sold worldwide and employs more than 450,000 people.
It also drew international attention to Japan's criminal justice system, in which authorities can keep suspects in jail for prolonged periods while building their case.
Lawyers for Ghosn in France said this week that they have submitted a report to the United Nations, claiming violations of his fundamental rights during his lengthy detention under what they called "dehumanizing" conditions.
Ghosn says he's victim of a plot
Ghosn has repeatedly attempted to obtain bail previously without success. His most recent application was the first made under a new defense team that was appointed last month.
The conditions of the bail he was granted Tuesday includes monitoring by surveillance cameras and restrictions on his use of computers in order to limit how much information he can exchange with other people, according to his new lawyer, Junichiro Hironaka.
Ghosn has alleged that his spectacular downfall is the result of a plot against him by Nissan executives who opposed his plan to deepen the Japanese company's integration with Renault.
Analysts have repeatedly speculated that Nissan executives were uncomfortable about the possibility of Renault and Ghosn seeking full control of the Japanese company. Renault owns more than 40% of Nissan, while the Japanese automaker holds a 15% stake in its French partner.
On the day of Ghosn's arrest in November, Nissan announced that it had reported the case to Japanese prosecutors after a whistleblower helped it uncover serious financial misconduct.
Greg Kelly, a former Nissan executive who was arrested at the same time as Ghosn, was released on bail in Tokyo on Christmas Day. He has been charged over the under-reporting of Ghosn's income but not in relation to the transfer of personal investment losses to the company.
A spokesman for Nissan on Tuesday declined to comment on the court's decision to grant bail to Ghosn.
Nissan's own investigation into its former chairman and CEO has "uncovered substantial evidence of blatantly unethical conduct," the spokesman said, adding that "further discoveries related to Ghosn's misconduct continue to emerge."
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