Lawyers leading defense of Nissan ex-chairman Carlos Ghosn resign

Daniel Fowler
February 14, 2019

Ghosn has reportedly replaced him with a team that includes hotshot lawyer Junichiro Hironaka.

"I look forward to defending myself vigorously, and this represents the beginning of the process of not only establishing my innocence but also shedding light on the circumstances that led to my unjust detention", said Ghosn, who has been held at a detention centre since his arrest on November 19.

Yesterday Renault said that while Ghosn has stepped down as chairman and chief executive, he remains a director at the French firm.

He replaced former prosecutor Motonari Otsuru with hot-shot lawyer Junichiro Hironaka, who has a history of taking on high-profile cases and enjoys an enviable acquittal rate in a country where nearly every trial results in a guilty verdict. Ghosn has denied wrongdoing.

Hironaka, 73, has won several high-profile cases, helping acquit senior lawmaker Ichiro Ozawa and senior bureaucrat Atsuko Muraki.

"As we begin the trial phase, I have made a decision to engage Hironaka-sensei as my legal counsel", Ghosn said, using a honorific suffix. He also represented people forced to flee their homes in the Fukushima region after the 2011 nuclear disaster, according to the Asahi Shimbun newspaper.

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Otsuru is a former star Tokyo prosecutor. "Otsuru was miscast. He worked at the heart of the special prosecutors office so he was not someone who was going to go after them aggressively", Gohara said. A second member of Ghosn's defense team, Masato Oshikubo, had quit, it said.

He is accused of under-reporting millions of dollars in salary as head of Nissan, Renault's partner in an alliance Ghosn built up into the world's top-selling auto group.

Meanwhile, Nissan plans to appoint Senard to its board as director following a shareholder vote on April 8, and Ghosn - along with his long-time aide, Greg Kelly - will be removed at the same time, the news outlet added.

In a statement, Ghosn thanked Otsuru for his team's "tireless and diligent work", calling him a "very capable and intelligent man and lawyer".

Prosecutors have charged the former chairman with failing to report this amount in eight years of Nissan financial reports.

He also pointedly declined to criticise Ghosn's detention conditions, despite some global concern about the repeated extension of the auto executive's pre-trial custody. In Ghosn's case, the judge at a January 8 hearing said his continued detention was due to flight risk and the danger of witness or evidence tampering.

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