Former Nissan chief Ghosn granted $4.5 million bail, prosecutors appeal decision

Reporters stake out Tokyo Detention Center where former Nissan Chairman Carlos Ghosn is detained on Thursday, April 25, 2019. (AP)
Updated 25 April 2019

Former Nissan chief Ghosn granted $4.5 million bail, prosecutors appeal decision

  • Japanese court temporarily suspends the bail process as it considered the appeal
  • Carlos Ghosn cannot leave Japan and is subject to other restrictions

TOKYO: A Japanese court granted Carlos Ghosn bail Thursday, meaning the former Nissan boss could soon walk out of his Tokyo detention center to prepare his defense against multiple charges of financial misconduct.
The Tokyo District Court set bail at $4.5 million (¥500 million) as the 65-year-old auto sector titan faces four charges ranging from concealing part of his salary from shareholders to syphoning off Nissan funds for his personal use.
Prosecutors quickly appealed the court’s decision, delaying his immediate release but public broadcaster NHK said he could walk out of his detention center “as early as Thursday.”
The court temporarily suspended the bail process as it considered the appeal.
According to conditions set by the court, Ghosn cannot leave Japan and is subject to other restrictions to prevent him from attempting to flee or destroy evidence relating to the case.
Ghosn denies all the charges, with a spokesperson for the executive saying on Monday he would “vigorously defend himself against these baseless accusations and fully expects to be vindicated.”
The spokesperson said Ghosn was being detained “under cruel and unjust conditions, in violation of his human rights, in an effort by prosecutors to coerce a confession from him.”
On Monday, he was hit with what experts have described as the most serious charges yet as prosecutors accused him of syphoning off $5 million of Nissan cash transferred from the company to a dealership in Oman.
He also faces two charges of deferring some $80 million of his salary and hiding this in official documents to shareholders, and seeking to shift personal investment losses to the firm during the 2008 financial crisis.
A Nissan spokesman said in a statement that the company’s “internal investigation has uncovered substantial evidence of blatantly unethical conduct.”
“Further discoveries related to Ghosn’s misconduct continue to emerge,” he added.
Ghosn has already been granted bail once, posting $9 million and vowing not to leave Japan and to live in a small court-appointed apartment in central Tokyo — a far cry from his former luxury suite.
Last time he left the detention center in northern Tokyo, he was dressed in a cap, face mask and workman’s uniform in an apparent attempt to evade dozens of journalists from around the world hoping to snap a picture of the fallen tycoon.
The bizarre stunt was cooked up by one of his lawyers, Takashi Takano, who later apologized for “tainting” the reputation of his client who usually appears in public in sharp suits.
Ghosn was preparing to hold a much-anticipated news conference to “tell the truth” about his case but he was re-arrested shortly beforehand to face questioning about the alleged $5 million embezzlement.
Clearly aware he was about to return to custody, Ghosn pre-recorded a video in which he attacked “backstabbing” Nissan executives of a “plot” against him, as they feared closer ties with French partner Renault.
Japanese media reported on Tuesday that the French firm had offered a “management integration proposal” to Nissan, which was poised to reject it as they believe it does not provide equality to the Japanese company.
Unless re-arrested over further allegations, Ghosn will be free to organize his defense ahead of a possible trial that is likely to take months to prepare.
Ghosn’s lead lawyer Junichiro Hironaka has told reporters that a trial as early as the autumn was “not possible for various reasons.”
His lawyers have demanded he be tried separately from Nissan, which also faces charges for submitting the suspect financial documents, and have voiced fears he will not receive a fair trial.
The dramatic case has thrown the international spotlight on the Japanese justice system, derided by critics as “hostage justice” as it allows prolonged detention and relies heavily on suspects’ confessions.


Miami to become new powerhouse of tech startups

Updated 6 min 37 sec ago

Miami to become new powerhouse of tech startups

  • That diversity offers startups access to markets on the US East Coast, Latin America and Europe, according to experts

MIAMI: Miami is famous for beach parties, gators that wander onto golf courses and iguanas that tumble out of palm trees.

But now the city of “Scarface” and “Miami Vice” is vying to become a new powerhouse of tech startups that some in the business hope will spawn a novel phenomenon — the “iguanacorn.”

The word is meant to represent the tropical answer to the Silicon Valley “unicorns,” startups that are worth more than $1 billion.

While still lagging behind San Francisco and New York, the Florida city is trying to position itself as a tech hub, and already has its first “unicorns” under its belt. They include ParkJockey, which has disrupted the car parking sector, and Magic Leap, which takes users into the world of augmented reality.

Looking to surf the Florida tech wave, so-called startup accelerators — firms that invest in fledgling tech ventures and speed up their early development — are starting to pop up in southern Florida.

Among the leaders is 500 Startups, which opened a Miami branch last year, as well as TheVentureCity, set up two years ago to offer opportunities to Latin American and European entrepreneurs who lack Silicon Valley contacts.

“Not everyone comes from Stanford or Columbia, from MIT, and has their own ‘network’ built up in San Francisco,” said Laura Gonzalez-Estefani, a former Facebook executive and co-founder of TheVentureCity.

The idea of her company is to “identify the best businesses outside of Silicon Valley and give them a boost,” she told AFP. She jokingly refers to such ventures as “iguanacorns.”

“‘Iguanacorns’ is the way we tag the unicorns that are coming from emerging tech hubs,” she said.

In keeping with that idea, her office is decorated with pictures of unicorns and their tropical, reptilian cousins.

Ana Gonzalez, head of 500 Startups Miami — which has its main headquarters in Silicon Valley — said that Miami’s “entrepreneurial ecosystem is at an inflection point.”

Her goal too is to “connect resources and expertise from Silicon Valley with Latin America and the Southeast United States.”

Miami is already an international city, home to a diverse mix of Latinos and Europeans who can snack on Cuban croquettes or cross the street and find Russian “syrnikis,” pancakes stuffed with cottage cheese.

Fifty-three percent of the city’s 2.7 million residents are foreign-born, and locals joke that Miami is the only foreign city Americans can visit without a passport.

That diversity offers startups access to markets on the US East Coast, Latin America and Europe, according to experts.

Additional draws include low taxes, a lower cost of living compared to San Francisco and New York, and a pleasant climate — if you don’t mind hurricanes.

“A big percentage of our entrepreneurs are not from here,” said Brian Breslin, head of the University of Miami’s Entrepreneurship Center.

“Whether it’s South America or Europe or other parts of the United States, they’re coming here for lifestyle reasons, cost-of-living reasons, safety/security, access to different markets. So there’s a lot of different value-adds of being here compared to, say, going to San Francisco, or New York, or Boston, or any of the other traditional tech hubs,” he said.

According to 2019’s Global Startup Ecosystem Report, which analyzes the health of tech ecosystems around the world, Miami is one of the ten cities to emerge as a hub this year, and ranks in the top 30 of the most important startup centers globally.

Tech sector workers in the city increased by 40 percent between 2012 and 2018, the report said, noting that “Miami is becoming a tech powerhouse.”

And Breslin said the cycle of growth in more established tech hubs indicates that more expansion is yet to come.

“I don’t think we’ve peaked yet. I think there’s still growth to be had,” he said.

“People go work at Facebook, or Google, make a ton of money and go start a new business. And we’re just now getting to that point where people made a lot of money working at Chewy.com, at Ultimate Software, hopefully soon at Magic Leap, and then those people will turn around and start the next wave of businesses,” he said.