Ghosn’s Japanese lawyers quit after former Nissan chief fled

Two of Ghosn’s three key lawyers said they had resigned after the former Nissan chairman absconded to Lebanon.

Ghosn lawyers
Former Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn, left, was represented by lead lawyer Junichiro Hironaka, right, during his trial in Tokyo [File: Kyodo via Reuters]

Japanese lawyers representing Carlos Ghosn, including lead lawyer Junichiro Hironaka, have resigned following the former Nissan chief’s flight to Lebanon from Japan, where he had been fighting financial misconduct charges.

In an emailed statement on Thursday, Hironaka said everyone involved in the case at his practice had resigned. A spokeswoman at his firm declined to give a reason.

A second lawyer in Ghosn’s three-person legal team, Takashi Takano, also quit on Thursday, according to a member of the staff at his office.

The person who answered the phone at the office of third lawyer Hiroshi Kawatsu said she didn’t know if he still represented the former automotive executive, Reuters reported.

Ghosn, who fled from Tokyo last month, told Reuters in an interview in Beirut on Wednesday that he was happy to remain in Lebanon for the rest of his life and claimed he was treated with “brutality” during his detention and bail in Japan. His wife Carole, who was present at the interview, said she was “done with Japan”.

Japan has issued international wanted notices for the couple, which means the two will live in Lebanon as fugitives and could be arrested if they leave. Japan’s Justice Minister Masako Mori has described Ghosn’s criticism of her country’s judicial system as “absolutely intolerable”.

Hironaka, who earlier expressed disappointment at his client’s decision to abscond, had said he would quit once his client had settled his account.

Hired by Ghosn in February, the 74-year-old lawyer is known for his combative style. He has been called the “Razor” after winning a number of high-profile cases, including the acquittal of a senior legislator on financial misconduct charges and the exoneration of a bureaucrat jailed for four months on corruption charges fabricated by prosecutors.

Ghosn hired the new Japanese team in February after firing his first defence team led by Motonari Otsuru, an ex-prosecutor. He was represented in the US by the law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison.

Separately, the court decided on Thursday to try former Nissan executive Greg Kelly in Ghosn’s absence, Kyodo News reported. That effectively leaves the American at the centre of the criminal case and a proxy for Ghosn’s innocence or guilt in the first set of charges against him.

The two were arrested on the same day; Kelly remains in Japan to face charges that allege he helped understate Ghosn’s compensation by tens of millions of dollars.

It was not clear whether Nissan, which has also been charged for being involved in under-reporting Ghosn’s income, will be prosecuted. Japanese prosecutors have continued to push the case domestically, issuing an arrest warrant for Ghosn’s wife Carole earlier this month.

Ghosn, arrested in November 2018, had been free on bail as he awaited a trial that was scheduled to start this year, but made a dramatic escape last month and fled to Lebanon. He has denied all of the charges, saying they were part of a conspiracy to prevent further integration between Nissan and Renault SA.

Source: News Agencies