Published: Wed, February 13, 2019
Finance | By Loren Pratt

Ghosn changes lawyer team, adds hotshot attorney, in change of strategy

Ghosn changes lawyer team, adds hotshot attorney, in change of strategy

Nissan said on Tuesday that it had recognised around 9 billion yen ($84 million) in additional expenses linked to payments to Ghosn.

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

A former prosecutor, Otsuru's representation of Ghosn pitted him against one of his old colleagues. The scandal has already cost Ghosn his leadership positions at Nissan and partner Renault SA, and prosecutors say his alleged financial crimes could put him in prison for as many as 10 years.

Nobuo Gohara, a former prosecutor, told Reuters hiring Hironaka would mean a more aggressive legal strategy.

Otsuru's office confirmed his resignation in a statement but gave no reason for the move. "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.

There was no immediate explanation as to why the attorneys, who include lead lawyer Motonari Otsuru, were quitting Ghosn's defence team. Go Kondo, Ghosn's third defense lawyer, was unavailable for comment.

The surprise shake-up came on the eve of an expected first meeting between the Tokyo District Court, prosecutors, and defence lawyers to discuss the outlines of Ghosn's eventual trial.

"I would like to thank Otsuru-sensei and his team for their tireless and diligent work and courage during the interrogation phase of my incarceration", Ghosn said, using a Japanese honorific title associated with lawyers.

Last month Ghosn claimed the allegations of financial misconduct against him were the result of "plot and treason" by Nissan executives opposed to deeper integration between Renault and alliance partners Mitsubishi Motors.

As for Renault, the French government owns a 15% stake in the automaker and is its largest shareholder, giving it influence over decisions which also affect Nissan.

The scandal has roiled the global vehicle industry and created tension between Nissan and Renault. Ghosn's aide and former Nissan representative director Greg Kelly, who was arrested the same day as the ex-chairman, is out on bail in Tokyo.

Nissan CEO Hiroto Saikawa is scheduled to meet newly appointed Renault Chairman Jean-Dominique Senard on Thursday in Japan as they look at ways to cement their partnership.

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