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Detained ex-Nissan executive Ghosn promises not to flee Japan if freed

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Detained ex-Nissan executive Ghosn promises not to flee Japan if freed
FILE PHOTO: Passersby are silhouetted as a huge street monitor broadcasts news reporting ousted Nissan Motor chairman Carlos Ghosn's indictment and re-arrest in Tokyo, Japan Dec. 10, 2018. REUTERS/Issei Kato/File Photo   -   Copyright  Issei Kato(Reuters)
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By Mike Spector

(Reuters) – Ousted Nissan Motor Co <7201.T> Chairman Carlos Ghosn on Sunday promised to remain in Japan and follow restrictions in exchange for his release from jail in the latest effort to persuade a court to grant him bail while he awaits trial on charges of financial misconduct.

Ghosn, the veteran automotive executive detained since his arrest on Nov. 19, has asked a Tokyo District Court for the second time to grant him bail after a request last week was denied. A hearing is scheduled for Monday evening in Tokyo.

“I remain imprisoned in the detention centre, 64 days after I was arrested, with no release in sight,” Ghosn said in a statement on Sunday. “As the Court considers my bail application, I want to emphasise that I will reside in Japan and respect any and all bail conditions the Court concludes are warranted.”

Ghosn has denied three Japanese charges of financial misconduct, including understating his salary for eight years and temporarily transferring personal financial losses to Nissan’s books.

The Tokyo court last week denied his bail application, citing concerns that he was a flight risk, an assertion the once-feted executive disputes.

Ghosn had planned to make his way to France if released and return to Japan for trial, but now intends to stay put, according to a person familiar with the matter.

“I will attend my trial not only because I am legally obligated to do so, but because I am eager to finally have the opportunity to defend myself,” Ghosn said in the statement. “I am not guilty of the charges against me and I look forward to defending my reputation in the courtroom. Nothing is more important to me or to my family.”

The Japanese government could not be reached immediately for comment and a Nissan representative had no immediate comment.

Ghosn’s lawyer, Motonari Otsuru, expects his client to be held until trial, which he said could begin in about six months.

If granted bail, Ghosn said he would remain in a Tokyo apartment and wear a tracking device to monitor his whereabouts, according to a person familiar with the matter. Ghosn would also pay for private security guards to watch him, report daily to Japanese prosecutors and refrain from speaking to individuals who might be witnesses in his case, the person said.

Ghosn hasn’t spoken to his family since being detained, the person said.

Ghosn spearheaded Nissan’s turnaround two decades ago, and the case has jolted the auto industry, while muddying the outlook for Nissan’s three-way alliance with France’s Renault SA <RENA.PA> and Mitsubishi Motors Corp <7211.T>.

Renault, which dominates the partnership through its 43.4 percent stake in Nissan, is expected to meet within days to consider potential candidates to replace Ghosn as chief executive officer and chairman.

Meanwhile, a panel made up of Nissan external directors and third-party members held a briefing on Sunday after its first meeting to recommend ways to tighten lax governance and approval processes for matters including director compensation and chairman selection.

“Having read the report on the internal investigation, my initial impression was that the head of the company may have had questionable ethical standards,” committee co-chair Seiichiro Nishioka told the briefing.

(Reporting by Mike Spector in New York; Additional reporting by Maki Shiraki, Naomi Tajitsu,; Kiyoshi Takenaka and Tim Kelly in Tokyo; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)

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