Carlos Ghosn, the embattled former chairman of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance, walked free of the Tokyo jail where he was confined for 108 days in a breakthrough that will help him fight what he calls the “meritless and unsubstantiated” criminal charges against him.

Ghosn left the Tokyo Detention House around 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, climbed into a vehicle and was whisked away. Television footage showed Ghosn wearing eyeglasses, a surgical mask, a blue cap and workman’s clothes replete with fluorescent orange safety stripes  as a swarm of guards led him to a Suzuki minivehicle in an apparent attempt to camouflage his release.

Ghosn, who turns 65 on Saturday, momentarily steered toward a large black van parked nearby before being redirected to the diminutive Suzuki, which had commercial vehicle plates and a ladder lashed to the top. The black van was parked behind the silver Suzuki and was packed with Ghosn’s belongings, including blankets and suitcases. It drove away afterward.

Hundreds of journalists crowded the entrance of the detention center to chronicle his release as helicopters hovered overhead. It was not immediately known where Ghosn was taken, but the conditions of Ghosn’s release restrict him to court-approved housing.

Several hours before Ghosn was freed, the Tokyo District Court announced he had paid the prescribed bail of 1 billion yen ($8.9 million) in cash. The court approved bail the day before, with conditions of limited Internet access, a ban on international travel and video surveillance inside his residence. But the court rejected a last-ditch appeal by prosecutors to quash bail.

Focus now turns to Ghosn’s trial, where he will face three indictments on allegations of financial misconduct at Nissan. Ghosn’s lawyer, Junichiro Hironaka, has said a trial could still be months away and speculated it won’t head to court until after summer.

In the meantime, Ghosn will likely double down on preparing for the legal battle ahead and use his freedom to tell his side of the story.  He already started on the eve of his release.

In a statement emailed Tuesday, Ghosn called his arrest and detention a “terrible ordeal” and expressed thanks to his family and friends for standing by him.

“I am also grateful to the NGOs and human rights activists in Japan and around the world who fight for the cause of presumption of innocence and a fair trial,” Ghosn said.

“I am innocent and totally committed to vigorously defending myself in a fair trial against these meritless and unsubstantiated accusations,” he said.

Ghosn’s lawyer had earlier suggested Ghosn wanted to give a news conference after his release on bail. But Hironaka said Wednesday there were no immediate plans for one.

In the meantime, the onetime globe-trotting car executive will be kept on a short leash by strict bail conditions. According to the Tokyo District Court and Hironaka, Ghosn must reside in a court-approved residence and have his movements monitored by camera surveillance. He can’t leave Japan and his contact with other people will be restricted.

(Auto News)

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