Ghosn’s Japan lawyer quits after client’s flight to Lebanon

Yuri Kageyama
AP Business Writer

Tokyo – One of the Japanese lawyers for former Nissan Chairman Carlos Ghosn has stepped down from that job after Ghosn fled the country.

Junichiro Hironaka had been representing Ghosn in his defense against various financial misconduct allegations. His move, announced Thursday, was widely expected after Ghosn fled to Lebanon late last month.

FILE - In this Oct. 24, 2019, file photo, Junichiro Hironaka, a lawyer of former Nissan Chairman Carlos Ghosn, attends a press conference in Tokyo.

Hironaka said in a statement that the entire team working on the case at his office will quit but did not outline reasons. He has said before he has felt some empathy for Ghosn’s reasons for escape, while stressing he had hoped to win vindication in court.

Hironaka is respected for winning innocent verdicts in high-profile cases in this nation where the conviction rate is higher than 99%. Among the cases he has handled is that of Atsuko Muraki, a welfare ministry official accused of falsely approving a group to qualify for mail discounts. She was acquitted in 2010.

In a news conference last week in Beirut, Ghosn insisted again that he was innocent of the charges of underreporting his future compensation and of breach of trust in diverting Nissan Motor Co. money for his personal gain.

He said he fled because he felt he could not expect a fair trial in Japan.

Ghosn’s flight while he was out on bail awaiting trial, means his case will not go on in Japan. Interpol has issued a wanted notice but his extradition from Lebanon is unlikely.

Ghosn has accused Nissan officials and Japanese officials of conspiring to bring him down to block a fuller integration of Nissan with its French alliance partner Renault SA of France.

Ghosn, who has signed on an international team of lawyers, has expressed willingness to stand trial in Lebanon.