FILE - In this Jan. 8, 2019, file photo, Motonari Ohtsuru, defense lawyer of former Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn, speaks during a press conference in Tokyo. Ohtsuru, the chief lawyer of former Nissan Chairman Ghosn, has handed in his resignation, according to his office and a statement submitted to the court.(AP Photo/Koji Sasahara, File)

Lawyers leading defense of Nissan ex-chairman Ghosn quits

February 13, 2019 - 3:30 am

TOKYO (AP) — Motonari Ohtsuru, the lawyer heading the defense for Nissan Motor Co.'s former chairman Carlos Ghosn, has resigned.

Ohtsuru's office and a statement submitted to the court confirmed that Ohtsuru had quit on Wednesday. It was the latest twist in Ghosn's legal battle after he was arrested in November. He has been charged with falsifying financial reports by under-reporting his compensation and with breach of trust.

Ghosn has repeatedly said he is innocent.

It was unclear why Ohtsuru was no longer representing Ghosn or if Ghosn had dismissed him. Another attorney chosen to represent the auto industry star executive also resigned as of Wednesday.

Japanese media said that Junichiro Hironaka, a defense lawyer famous for winning innocent verdicts in a legal system where 99 percent of the cases result in convictions, has been hired to defend Ghosn. The reports cited unnamed sources as is customary with Japanese media and could not immediately be confirmed.

Hironaka's office said the attorney was out. It declined comment until his return.

Ohtsuru is a former star Tokyo prosecutor. In Japan, lawyers who are former prosecutors, are reputed to be good because they know how prosecutors work.

But Ohtsuru and Ghosn seemed to be at odds over his defense, with Ghosn strongly asserting his innocence from the start through his own statements, as well as those of his other lawyers, family members and representatives.

Ghosn has tried without success to gain release on bail, offering to wear an electronic monitoring tether.

Ohtsuru seemed more accepting of Ghosn's prolonged detention since his arrest on Nov. 19. In a news conference at the Foreign Correspondents' Club in Tokyo, Ohtsuru said prosecutors might detain Ghosn for months more.

The Tokyo District Court, prosecutors and lawyers for Ghosn were scheduled to meet Thursday to work on preparing for his trial, meaning that Ghosn's new lawyer will be headed to that meeting.

Trials in Japan take much preparation and the meeting does not mean it will start soon.

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Yuri Kageyama is on Twitter at https://twitter.com/yurikageyama

On Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/yurikageyama/?hl=en

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