By Tim Kelly and Naomi Tajitsu
TOKYO (Reuters) – Former Nissan Chairman Carlos Ghosn walked out of a Japanese jail for a second time late on Thursday, freed on $4.5 million bail after agreeing to curbs on contacting his wife as he awaits trial on financial misconduct charges.
After a Tokyo court rejected an appeal by prosecutors against his release, Ghosn left the Tokyo detention center around 10:22 p.m. (1322 GMT), dressed in a dark suit and white shirt with no necktie, a Reuters witness said.
A waiting Toyota Alphard van whisked him past the dozens of reporters, TV camera operators and photographers who had been waiting outside the detention center since morning for a glimpse of the ex-executive after his latest three weeks in custody.
Ghosn’s second release on bail in as many months is the latest turn in a financial scandal that has rocked the global auto industry and exposed tensions in the automaking partnership between Nissan and France’s Renault SA.
When he was last released, the former executive traded in his usual tailored suit and chauffeured sedan for a disguise of a workman’s uniform, glasses and a mask to slip past reporters before being driven away in a modest compact van.
The latest charge against Ghosn relates to enriching himself at a cost of $5 million to Nissan. Since his initial arrest in November, Ghosn has also been charged with temporarily transferring personal financial losses to his employer’s books and understating his salary during his time at the helm of Japan’s No. 2 automaker.
He has denied all charges against him.
“I maintain my innocence and am committed to vigorously defending myself against these meritless and unsubstantiated accusations,” Ghosn said in a statement following his release.
As a condition of Thursday’s bail, a Tokyo court stipulated that Ghosn cannot meet or otherwise communicate with his wife Carole without prior permission, according to his defense lawyer.
Carole Ghosn has been critical of the treatment she and her husband received from Japanese prosecutors when they re-arrested Ghosn at their small apartment in Tokyo earlier this month on charges of aggravated breach of trust.
Following her husband’s latest arrest on April 4, she traveled to Paris to appeal to the French government for help in securing Ghosn’s freedom while he awaits trial, and was questioned by authorities upon her return to Tokyo.
“Restricting communications and contact between my wife and me is cruel and unnecessary,” Ghosn said in the statement. “We love each other very much, she answered all of the prosecutors’ questions in court, and she has done nothing wrong.”
Along with restricted access to his wife, Ghosn’s movements and communications will be closely monitored and restricted to prevent his fleeing the country and tampering with evidence, the Tokyo District court said.
Earlier in the day, the court said in a statement that it had approved a bail request from Ghosn’s defense team and set bail at 500 million yen ($4.5 million), roughly half his previous bail of 1 billion yen.
He was released in March, but then re-arrested earlier this month on the new charges, returning to the detention center where he had previously spent 108 days following his first arrest.
In the latest charge, prosecutors allege two separate payments of $5 million were made from the account of a Nissan subsidiary into the account of an overseas dealership. A total of $5 million was subsequently transferred from the dealership’s account to another account in which Ghosn had an interest.
Ghosn has said he is the victim of a boardroom coup, accusing former Nissan colleagues of “backstabbing”, describing them as selfish rivals bent on derailing a closer alliance between the Japanese automaker and Renault, its top shareholder.
(Additional reporting by Maki Shiraki; Writing by Naomi Tajitsu; Editing by Malcolm Foster, Chris Gallagher, Muralikumar Anantharaman and Kirsten Donovan)