Whatever Carlos Ghosn’s misdeeds, Japan’s openness is also on trial

Mar 06, 2019

AFTER 108 DAYS in detention, Carlos Ghosn, the former chairman of Nissan, was this week granted bail by a Tokyo court while he awaits trial on charges of financial misconduct. In Japan Mr Ghosn was once a business megastar for having rescued the giant carmaker from bankruptcy in the late 1990s. He was the hero in a manga series. When polled, many Japanese even thought the French-Lebanese-Brazilian should be running the country. 

Mr Ghosn’s world changed on November 19th when prosecutors, television cameras in tow, met his private jet on arrival in Tokyo. Prosecutors accuse him of understating his income and allege he improperly offloaded personal foreign-exchange losses via a Nissan subsidiary. He disappeared into an unheated cell, to be interrogated without lawyers and receive only fleeting visits from family. To secure convictions, Japan’s system of justice depends heavily on confessions procured during long, isolating detentions. But Mr Ghosn has refused to confess. He says he has done nothing that Nissan did not approve.

Critics claim that, as a foreigner, Mr Ghosn has been singled out for treatment akin to a Stalinist show trial—right down to character assassination by a rabid press corps. That is not true. Mr Ghosn’s long pre-trial detention is far from unique. After his refusal to confess, Nobumasa Yokoo was detained for 966 days on charges...

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