TOKYO • A Japanese court granted bail to ousted Nissan Motor chairman Carlos Ghosn yesterday but prosecutors swiftly appealed against the decision, delaying an immediate release of the once-feted executive after more than three months in jail.
Judges at the Tokyo District Court accepted defence lawyers' assurances that Ghosn would submit to extensive surveillance, and set his bail at one billion yen (S$12 million), an apparent win for his new legal team on his third bail request.
Prosecutors, however, are demanding that Ghosn - the architect of Nissan's car partnership with France's Renault and one of the global vehicle industry's most celebrated executives - remain in jail pending his trial.
A release would allow Ghosn to meet his lawyers frequently and build a defence ahead of his trial.
He faces charges of aggravated breach of trust and under-reporting his compensation to the tune of US$82 million (S$111 million) at Nissan for nearly a decade.
If convicted on all the charges, he faces up to a decade in jail. The former chairman of Nissan, Renault and Mitsubishi Motors has denied wrongdoing.
As of last night, Ghosn's bail had not been paid and it looked unlikely that he would be released yesterday, Japan's Kyodo news agency reported.
Nissan declined to comment on the bail decision, which comes a day after the head of Ghosn's new legal team said he was optimistic the executive would be released.
The case has cast a harsh light globally on Japan's criminal justice system, which allows suspects to be detained for long periods and prohibits defence lawyers from being present during interrogations that can last eight hours a day.
Public opinion likely played a role in the court's decision to grant bail, along with assurances from Ghosn's lawyers that he was prepared to be under any restraint, said Mr Shin Ushijima, a former prosecutor and lawyer.
"The court was partly influenced by the opinion of the entire world," Mr Ushijima said. "People in general thought (the detention period) is too long. This will change Japan's criminal procedures."
It was not clear whether the appeal by prosecutors will be approved or rejected. If the court rejects the appeal, Ghosn can be released after posting bail.
There was a heavy media presence outside the Tokyo detention centre where Ghosn is being held, with throngs of reporters setting up ladders to get a clear sight over the tall fence.
While his one-billion-yen bail amount would rank among the highest in Japan, it is half the amount paid in 2005 by Mitsuru Asada, a businessman who was later convicted of defrauding the government through a beef buy-back programme.
Ghosn, who turns 65 on Saturday, has spent more than 100 days in a 4.8 sq m, tatami mat-lined cell.
In his only court appearance, in January, he said he looked forward to his trial to "finally have the opportunity to defend myself".