Ghosn, who was arrested in November over alleged financial misconduct and remains in detention in a Tokyo jail, picked 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 investigating him.
Hironaka’s combative style contrasts with the low-key approach adopted by a media-shy Otsuru.
The 73-year-old defense attorney is reputed for winning high profile cases, including the acquittal of a senior lawmaker, Ichiro Ozawa, on financial misconduct charges. He also helped free a senior bureaucrat Atsuko Muraki who was jailed for four months on corruption charges fabricated by prosecutors.
“The change in lawyers means a change in style, but the legal strategy will still be the same,” I don’t think it increases Ghosn’s chance of an acquittal,” said Masashi Akita, a defense lawyer at Shin-Yu Law Office in Osaka, ahead of Wednesday’s comments by Hironaka.
Ghosn has lost his perch atop an automotive alliance trio of Renault, Nissan and Mitsubishi Motors. Attempts to win bail, including an offer to wear a GPS ankle bracelet and hire security guards to stop him trying to tamper with evidence, failed.
Ghosn stands accused of underreporting compensation spanning eight years to the tune of $82 million. He also faces breach of trust charges that he shifted personal losses to Nissan and improperly steered $14.7 million to a Saudi Arabian businessman’s company to help him navigate the problem. Ghosn denies all the charges.
“He is innocent of all the charges,” Hironaka said.
In January, former attorney Otsuru outlined some of the defense arguments in a lengthy statement prepared when the former executive requested a court hearing about his detention. Ghosn took the step, rare in Japanese legal proceedings, to profess his innocence and challenge his imprisonment.
That hearing could end up backfiring, according to some Japanese legal experts because it established a legal strategy before his lawyers had looked at evidence gathered by prosecutors. Critics of that approach include defense lawyer Takashi Takano, a new member of Ghosn’s legal team who spoke to Reuters before he was hired.
“They have shown their hand. That is not something they should have be doing at that stage,” Takano, who runs his own criminal law practice, said ahead of comments by Ghosn’s new lawyer on Wednesday. “It’s like playing rock-paper-scissors and the defense lawyers lost.”
“It is an unusual strategy,” said Professor Colin Jones, a lawyer and expert in Japan’s legal system at Doshisha University in Kyoto. “There is no plus side to a client statement, all could be used as evidence,” he added.
Wrangling over witnesses and evidence during pretrial discovery could take as long as a year with a subsequent trial stretching through 2020, the legal experts said. Ghosn’s best chance for bail may come about halfway through that process when evidence tampering concerns, the reason given by the court to keep him locked up, ease, they added.
Hironaka said it was difficult to predict when Ghosn will be released. Hironaka and Takano will be joined by Hiroshi Kawatsu from Kasumigaseki Sogo Law Offices to defend Ghosn.
Source: Auto News