Ghosn's Japanese lawyers resign from case

Decision by legal representatives could hurt former Nissan chairman defence against the financial-misconduct allegations

(FILES) In this file photo taken on January 8, 2019 chief lawyer for former Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn, Motonari Otsuru, speaks during a press conference at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan in Tokyo. Two lawyers defending former Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn on charges of financial misconduct submitted their resignations on February 13, 2019, their law firm said in a statement. There was no immediate explanation as to why the attorneys, who include lead lawyer Motonari Otsuru, were quitting Ghosn's defence team. / AFP / Kazuhiro NOGI

Carlos Ghosn’s Japanese lawyers, hired after the former Nissan chairman was sent to jail in November, have asked to be removed from the case, potentially hurting the car veteran’s defence against the financial-misconduct allegations that have shocked the global car industry.

Mr Ghosn has selected Junichiro Hironaka as his new lawyer, the Sankei Shimbun newspaper reported.

The previous lawyers, including Motonari Otsuru, have notified the court that they will no longer represent him as legal counsel, according to an emailed statement Wednesday, Bloomberg reported. The team led the defence of Mr Ghosn, who has been jailed in Tokyo since his November 19 arrest and is awaiting a trial.

Despite having taken on some of Japan's high-publicity cases, Mr Otsuru is known for maintaining a low media profile and spoke publicly only once about the Ghosn case at a press conference, according to Agence-France Presse.

He cut an owlish and cautious figure, admitting that his client was unlikely to make bail before his case came to court – and saying that could take at least six months.

A former prosecutor, Mr Otsuru's representation of Mr Ghosn pitted him against one of his old colleagues.

Mr Otsuru pointedly declined to criticise the conditions his then-client was being held in, although Mr Ghosn himself said he was in a "very hard" situation and slammed authorities for refusing him bail.

Mr Ghosn, indicted for alleged misconduct including understating his income at Nissan by tens of millions of dollars, has denied wrongdoing. Prosecutors say the alleged crimes could carry a jail term of up to 10 years.

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