Ghosn’s new lawyer takes aim at Nissan and prosecutors

Carlos Ghosn Renault-Nissan

Carlos Ghosn’s new lawyer took aim at Nissan, prosecutors and courts on Wednesday, rejecting the charges against the former chairman as an internal company matter and saying Japan was out of step with worldwide norms by keeping his client in jail.

“This should have been dealt with as an internal matter,” Junichiro Hironaka, nicknamed the Razor, stated at his first press briefing.

Ghosn, who was arrested in November over alleged financial misconduct and is still in detention in a Tokyo jail, selected a new team last week with long-time defense attorney Hironaka as a key member to replace Motonari Otsuru, a lawyer who once ran the prosecutor’s office probing him.

Hironaka’s combative style contrasts with the low-key approach embraced by a media-shy Otsuru.

Ghosn’s switch to an aggressive legal strategy came following his attempts to win bail failed and right before lawyers were due to sit down with prosecutors and judges for the first time to talk about a schedule for pre-trial discovery meetings, where prosecutors will show evidence and submit a list of witnesses.

Hironaka said he is not aware why Ghosn picked him, but added that Ghosn probably wanted an experienced criminal lawyer as the case moved toward trial.

“He is innocent of all the charges,” Hironaka stated.

The 73-year-old defense attorney is known for winning high profile cases, including the acquittal of a senior lawmaker, Ichiro Ozawa, on financial misconduct allegations. He also helped free a senior bureaucrat Atsuko Muraki who was jailed for four months on corruption charges fabricated by prosecutors.

Even with greater legal firepower, Ghosn deals with a criminal justice system where only three out of every hundred defendants pleading not guilty are acquitted. Neither does the country have a plea deal mechanism that would permit Ghosn to agree to lesser charges for a lighter sentence.

“The modification in lawyers means a change in style, but the legal strategy will still be the same, I don’t think it boosts Ghosn’s chance of an acquittal,” stated Masashi Akita, a defense lawyer at Shin-Yu Law Office in Osaka, prior Wednesday’s comments by Hironaka.

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