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

Reuters  |  TOKYO 

By and Tim Kelly

TOKYO (Reuters) - Carlos Ghosn's defence attorney resigned and was replaced by a team that includes Junichiro Hironaka, in a change of strategy from the ousted three months after his arrest.

Ghosn, Nissan's one-time saviour, has been held in detention since his Nov. 19 arrest and indicted for under-reporting his salary and breach of trust. He has denied the charges.

The hired as of a new defense team, his office said on Wednesday.

Hironaka, 73, has won several high profile cases, helping acquit and senior bureaucrat

Hiring Hironaka would mean a more aggressive legal strategy, said Nobuo Gohara, a former Otsuru previously led the special prosecutors' office that is now handling Ghosn's case.

"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. "Hironaka is an experienced who has won a number of cases. He will mount a more thorough and aggressive defence."

Otsuru's office confirmed his resignation in a statement, but gave no reason for the move. A second member of Ghosn's defense team, Masato Oshikubo, had quit, it said. Go Kondo, Ghosn's third defence lawyer, was unavailable for comment.

Ghosn released a short statement thanking Otsuru for his team's "tireless and diligent work", and called him 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.

"As we begin the trial phase, I have decided to engage Hironaka-sensei as my legal counsel," Ghosn said, using a honorific suffix. "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."

Ghosn, 64, told the Nikkei newspaper last month that Nissan executives opposed to his plans for closer ties with automaking partner plotted to remove him.

Ghosn was widely credited with rescuing Nissan from near-bankruptcy after he was brought over to in 1999 by Renault after the French automaker bought a chunk of Nissan.

Since his arrest, Ghosn has resigned as of Renault and been sacked as of Nissan and Mitsubishi Motors, the three-way alliance he once captained.

The scandal has roiled the global and created tension between Nissan and Renault.

Nissan is scheduled to meet newly appointed Renault on Thursday in as they look at ways to cement their partnership.

(Reporting by and Tim Kelly; Writing by Malcolm Foster; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman)

(Only the headline and picture of this report may have been reworked by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Wed, February 13 2019. 23:43 IST