TOKYO — Carlos Ghosn’s new lawyer took purpose at Nissan, prosecutors and courts on Wednesday, dismissing the costs in opposition to the ousted chairman as an inner firm matter and saying Japan was out of step with worldwide norms by retaining his shopper in jail.
“This could have been handled as an inner matter,” Junichiro Hironaka, nicknamed the Razor, stated at his first press briefing.
Ghosn, who was arrested in November over alleged monetary misconduct and stays in detention in a Tokyo jail, picked a brand new crew final week with long-time protection legal professional Hironaka as a key member to exchange Motonari Otsuru, a lawyer who as soon as ran the prosecutor’s workplace investigating him.
Hironaka’s combative fashion contrasts with the low-key strategy adopted by media-shy Otsuru.
Ghosn’s swap to an aggressive authorized technique got here after his makes an attempt to win bail failed and simply earlier than attorneys had been on account of sit down with prosecutors and judges for the primary time to hash out a schedule for pre-trial discovery conferences, the place prosecutors will reveal proof and submit a listing of witnesses.
Hironaka stated he did not know why Ghosn picked him, however added that Ghosn in all probability needed an skilled prison lawyer because the case moved towards trial.
The 73-year-old protection legal professional is reputed for successful excessive profile instances, together with the acquittal of a senior lawmaker, Ichiro Ozawa, on monetary misconduct costs. He additionally helped free a senior bureaucrat Atsuko Muraki who was jailed for 4 months on corruption costs fabricated by prosecutors.
But, even with higher authorized firepower the previous Nissan Motor Co boss faces a prison justice system the place solely three out of each 100 defendants pleading not responsible are acquitted. Neither does Japan have a plea-deal mechanism that may permit Ghosn to conform to lesser costs for a lighter sentence.
“The change in attorneys means a change in fashion, however the authorized technique will nonetheless be the identical. I do not suppose it will increase Ghosn’s probability of an acquittal,” stated Masashi Akita, a protection lawyer at Shin-Yu Legislation Workplace in Osaka, forward of Wednesday’s feedback by Hironaka.
Ghosn has misplaced his perch atop an automotive alliance trio of French carmaker Renault SA and Japanese automakers Nissan and Mitsubishi Motors Corp. Makes an attempt to win bail, together with a suggestion to put on a GPS ankle bracelet and rent safety guards to cease him attempting to tamper with proof, failed.
Ghosn stands accused of underreporting compensation spanning eight years to the tune of $82 million. He additionally faces breach of belief costs that he shifted private losses to Nissan and improperly steered $14.7 million to a Saudi Arabian businessman’s firm to assist him navigate the issue. Ghosn denies all the costs.
“He’s harmless of all the costs,” Hironaka stated.
Did Ghosn miscalculate?
In January, former legal professional Otsuru outlined among the protection arguments in a prolonged assertion ready when the previous government requested a court docket listening to about his detention. Ghosn took the step, uncommon in Japanese authorized proceedings, to profess his innocence and problem his imprisonment.
That listening to may find yourself backfiring, in accordance with some Japanese authorized specialists as a result of it established a authorized technique earlier than his attorneys had checked out proof gathered by prosecutors. Critics of that strategy embody protection lawyer Takashi Takano, a brand new member of Ghosn’s authorized crew who spoke to Reuters earlier than he was employed.
“They’ve proven their hand. That’s not one thing they need to have been doing at that stage,” Takano, who runs his personal prison regulation follow, stated forward of feedback by Ghosn’s new lawyer on Wednesday. “It is like enjoying rock-paper-scissors, and the protection attorneys misplaced.”
“It’s an uncommon technique,” stated Professor Colin Jones, a lawyer and knowledgeable in Japan’s authorized system at Doshisha College in Kyoto. “There isn’t any plus aspect to a shopper assertion, all may very well be used as proof,” he added.
Wrangling over witnesses and proof throughout pretrial discovery may take so long as a 12 months with a subsequent trial stretching by means of 2020, the authorized specialists stated. Ghosn’s finest probability for bail could come about midway by means of that course of when proof tampering considerations, the rationale given by the court docket to maintain him locked up, ease, they added.
Hironaka stated it was troublesome to foretell when Ghosn will probably be launched. Hironaka and Takano will probably be joined by Hiroshi Kawatsu from Kasumigaseki Sogo Legislation Workplaces to defend Ghosn.
“I’ve been referred to as the Razor, however it isn’t a nickname I significantly like. I might somewhat be generally known as mild Hironaka,” he stated.