Carlos Ghosn's lawyers ask court for trial separate from Nissan and former director

Former Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn is seen at his residence in Tokyo on March 8, 2019.
Former Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn is seen at his residence in Tokyo on March 8, 2019. PHOTO: AFP

TOKYO (REUTERS) - Lawyers for former Nissan Motor chairman Carlos Ghosn on Tuesday (April 2) said they had asked that their client stand trial for alleged financial wrongdoing separately from his former employer, saying he would not get a fair hearing otherwise. 

The request marks the first major legal manoeuvre by Ghosn’s new legal team, which took over his case in February and is headed by a high-profile defence lawyer, Junichiro Hironaka, widely know as “the razor” for his courtroom prowess.  

Ghosn was arrested in Tokyo in November after Nissan told prosecutors its own internal investigation uncovered evidence of wrongdoing. The Japanese automaker subsequently ousted Ghosn as chairman. 

Along with Ghosn and Greg Kelly, a close Ghosn associate who served as a director on Nissan’s board, prosecutors have also indicted the company itself for making false disclosures in annual securities reports, for which it has expressed regret. 

“No matter how you look at it, having Ghosn sit alongside Nissan at the trial would be peculiar, it would go against his right to a fair trial,” Hironaka told a briefing.  

Ghosn faces criminal charges in Japan over failing to report around US$82 million in salary from Nissan, and for temporarily transferring personal financial losses onto Nissan’s books during the global financial crisis.  Both Ghosn and Kelly have denied the wrongdoing. 

Hironaka told the briefing that his team wanted Ghosn’s case separated from that of Kelly’s because Kelly is a potential key witness for the Ghosn defence.

Hironaka also said he had not discussed with Ghosn a report that Nissan’s alliance partner Renault had alerted French prosecutors about payments to an Omani distributor. 

“We are aware of the report, but we haven’t spoken to Ghosn about it,” Hironaka told the briefing. 

On Monday Reuters reported that Renault SA had alerted French prosecutors to payments made to a Renault-Nissan business partner in Oman under former Chief Executive 
Ghosn.