Economy

Ghosn hires new defense team in change of strategy

Ghosn hires new defense team in change of strategy

Hironaka's career includes a successful defense of Atsuko Muraki, a former senior bureaucrat, against corruption charges.

Ghosn, 64, was arrested in Japan and ousted as Nissan chairman last November and has since been indicted along with Nissan and a fellow director for failing to disclose more than $80 million in additional 2010-2018 compensation that he had arranged to be paid later.

The payout to Ghosn, who remains in a Japanese detention center awaiting trial, was "subject to his presence within Renault", the company said in a statement. He has denied the charges.

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.

Unlike Otsuru, he hasn't worked as a prosecutor, entering private practice after obtaining his law license in 1970, according to his law firm's website.

"Hironaka is an experienced defense lawyer who has won a number of cases".

Otsuru's office and a statement submitted to the court confirmed that Otsuru had quit on Wednesday. Go Kondo, Ghosn's third defense lawyer, was unavailable for comment.

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Ghosn thanked Otsuru and his team for their "tireless and diligent work and courage during the interrogation phase of my incarceration" and hailed his former counsel as a "very capable and intelligent man and lawyer".

The sudden change in attorneys comes ahead of the expected start of informal meetings with prosecutors and judges to discuss pretrial preparations, an indication that there will be no new charges against Ghosn. "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".

Speaking from a cell in Tokyo, Ghosn claimed he's been brought down by a plot to end a potential Renault Nissan Mitsubishi merger.

The scandal, triggered by a Nissan internal investigation, initially strained its alliance with with 43.4 percent-owner Renault, which continued to back Ghosn until he was forced to resign as chairman and CEO last month.

Renault appointed new Chairman Jean-Dominique Senard on January 24 and last week passed evidence to prosecutors that the company had paid part of Ghosn's 2016 wedding costs - in a first case of his suspected misconduct at the French carmaker.

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.