April 4, 2019 / 5:13 AM / 3 months ago

Banned from internet or not? Does Ghosn's tweet violate bail terms?

TOKYO (Reuters) - Carlos Ghosn’s sudden emergence on Twitter, a day before he was re-arrested on Thursday, has raised questions about whether the former Nissan Motor boss violated the strict terms of his $9 million bail - something his lawyer has denied.

Former Nissan Motor Chairman Carlos Ghosn leaves his lawyer's office in Tokyo, Japan in this photo taken by Kyodo April 3, 2019. Mandatory credit Kyodo/via REUTERS

Ghosn was released on March 6 after more than three months in detention for charges including financial misconduct. At the time, his legal team said he had agreed to a series of conditions, including no access to the internet and that he could only use a computer not linked to the web at his lawyer’s office.

However, it was not clear how the internet ban would be enforced, and the bail terms were not made public - as is typical in Japan - making it difficult to determine details.

The issue was thrown into the spotlight after a tweet from new account @carlosghosn appeared in English and Japanese around midday on Wednesday. It said: “I’m getting ready to tell the truth about what’s happening. Press conference on Thursday, April 11.”

Featuring a photo of a smiling, grey-haired Ghosn in front of a cherry tree, now in full bloom in Japan - and symbolizing the onset of spring for many Japanese - the account prompted journalists to try to ascertain its authenticity.

Forty minutes later, a blue tick appeared, showing that Twitter had verified the owner of the account. The number of followers surged to 20,000 from just a handful earlier, and by midday Thursday, the number had grown to more than 40,000.

If Ghosn violates his bail conditions, which also included installing surveillance cameras in the entrance of his Tokyo residence, the Tokyo District Court could send him back to jail and make him forfeit his $9 million.

However, his lead lawyer Junichiro Hironaka told journalists late on Wednesday that Ghosn had not violated bail terms, saying his client could access the internet from a computer in the lawyers’ office provided all usage was logged and reported to authorities. He did not elaborate on the discrepancy between the conditions initially disclosed last month.

“He expressed an interest in using Twitter awhile back, so as long as his lawyers checked the content, it was OK,” said Hironaka. “Just sending out tweets on his own would create problems.”

“I don’t know if he himself wrote the tweet, but he didn’t violate bail conditions,” said Hironaka, nicknamed “the Razor” for many high-profile cases he has won in a country where the conviction rate is 99.9 percent.

It is not uncommon for public figures to have assistants tweet on their behalf, dictated or otherwise.

The Tokyo District Court handling Ghosn’s case said it does not disclose bail conditions and that it was impossible to say whether the tweet had violated the terms. Such decisions are left to the judges handling the case, it said.

The Tokyo Prosecutors Office declined to comment, saying bail matters are handled by the court.

Early on Thursday, Ghosn was subjected to a fourth arrest, this time on fresh charges of breach of trust at Nissan in what media reports linked to payments to an Omani vehicle dealer.

By late morning, Japanese media said he had been taken back to the Tokyo Detention Center, where he spent 108 days after being first arrested in November.

Ghosn faces charges of financial misconduct and aggravated breach of trust over allegedly failing to report around $82 million in salary and temporarily transferring personal financial losses onto Nissan’s books during the 2008 financial crisis. He denies wrongdoing.

Ghosn, in a statement provided through his U.S.-based spokesman, called the latest arrest “outrageous and arbitrary,” and that it was “part of another attempt by some individuals at Nissan to silence me”.

Reporting by Kwiyeon Ha and Ami Miyazaki; Additional reporting by Tim Kelly and Sam Nussey; Writing by Malcolm Foster; Editing by David Dolan and Christopher Cushing

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