TOKYO • Ousted Nissan Motor chairman Carlos Ghosn was freed from jail yesterday after posting bail of 1 billion yen (S$12 million), giving the executive fresh impetus to craft his defence against financial misconduct charges in Japan.
He wore a workman's uniform, face mask, blue cap and glasses as he slipped out of the Tokyo Detention House and got into a van unrecognised by many of the journalists and TV crews camped outside the facility, television footage showed.
Public broadcaster NHK later showed aerial footage of the vehicle driving away.
Ghosn, the former titan of the global auto industry, had been confined to a small, unheated room in the detention centre for more than 100 days since he was arrested last Nov 19 on charges he has described as "meritless".
The Tokyo District Court said Ghosn has paid the 1 billion yen bail, among the highest ever in Japan, after it rejected a last-ditch appeal by prosecutors to keep him in jail.
Ghosn, also the former chairman of Renault and Mitsubishi Motors, was granted bail after he gave assurances that he would remain in Tokyo, surrender his passport to his lawyer and submit to extensive surveillance.
He 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.
Ghosn is also 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 by about US$82 million (S$111 million) at Nissan for nearly a decade.
While the bail is a significant step, Ghosn still faces a criminal justice system with a conviction rate of 99.9 per cent. If convicted on all charges, he faces a maximum sentence of up to 15 years in jail, prosecutors have said.
"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.
The release will allow Ghosn to meet his new legal team frequently and build a defence ahead of trial.
Last month, Ghosn hired lawyer Junichiro Hironaka, nicknamed "the Razor" for his success at winning acquittals in several high-profile cases, to replace Mr Motonari Otsuru, who once ran the prosecutor's office investigating him.
Mr Hironaka's appointment suggests a shift to a more aggressive defence strategy.
He has already said the charges against Ghosn should have been dealt with as an internal company matter and that Japan was out of step with international norms by keeping his client in jail.
Ghosn said nothing audible as he walked out of the Tokyo detention centre yesterday where cameras had massed outside for hours waiting for a shot of him.
He did not acknowledge the media as he climbed into a silver Suzuki van with a workman's ladder strapped to the top.
A camera zoomed in on him inside, showing his head tipped slightly into his hand, as though he were trying to hide his face.
His release sparked a furore on Japanese media and Twitter, where the sight of a man once hailed as a national hero dressed in a workman's disguise inspired mirth and confusion.
"Mr Ghosn clad in workclothes is enjoying a ride in a minivan," joked one Twitter user in Japanese.
"Ghosn's disguise, couldn't it be a bit better?" asked another.