Ghosn lawyer calls for separate trial from Nissan

Former Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn (left) leaving the office of his lead lawyer Junichiro Hironaka (above), in Tokyo last month. Mr Hironaka said the court plans to try Ghosn, Nissan and the tycoon's former right-hand man Greg Kelly together, and he
Former Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn (above) leaving the office of his lead lawyer Junichiro Hironaka, in Tokyo last month. Mr Hironaka said the court plans to try Ghosn, Nissan and the tycoon's former right-hand man Greg Kelly together, and he had lodged a petition for separate trials.PHOTO: REUTERS
Former Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn (left) leaving the office of his lead lawyer Junichiro Hironaka (above), in Tokyo last month. Mr Hironaka said the court plans to try Ghosn, Nissan and the tycoon's former right-hand man Greg Kelly together, and he
Former Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn leaving the office of his lead lawyer Junichiro Hironaka (above), in Tokyo last month. Mr Hironaka said the court plans to try Ghosn, Nissan and the tycoon's former right-hand man Greg Kelly together, and he had lodged a petition for separate trials.PHOTO: REUTERS

TOKYO • The lead lawyer for Carlos Ghosn yesterday called for the tycoon to be tried separately from Nissan and his former right-hand man, in the interests of a fair trial.

Mr Junichiro Hironaka told reporters that the court is planning to try Ghosn, Nissan and Greg Kelly together and that he had lodged a petition with the court for separate cases heard by different judges.

"Forcing such a trial on Mr Ghosn is an extreme violation of Mr Ghosn's right to a fair trial," lawyers for the executive wrote in the petition, also made public yesterday.

Ghosn is facing two separate charges of deferring his salary and hiding it in official documents to shareholders. This amounted to a total of nine billion yen (S$109.6 million) over eight years.

He was also slapped with a further charge of seeking to transfer personal investment losses to Nissan's books and then paying a Saudi contact from company funds after he stumped up collateral for Ghosn.

Nissan is also facing charges, as it published the documents to shareholders with the allegedly falsified information. But Mr Hironaka argued that Nissan was effectively "on the prosecutor's side", as it has been providing the authorities with information from its internal probe into its former boss.

Mr Hironaka said his client was likely to give his own news conference "in the not too distant future", but was carefully considering what he should say in his first public comments since his release on bail on March 6.

On reports that a trial could start in September, Mr Hironaka said they were likely too optimistic and it would be difficult to keep to this timeline. "It is very likely that Mr Ghosn will be remaining in Japan for a year or a very long time," he said.

Ghosn continues to stress his innocence. But with more allegations emerging on a regular basis, the lawyer acknowledged that he "cannot rule out that the prosecutors may add additional charges", meaning Ghosn could be arrested yet again.

On Monday, it emerged that lawyers for Renault in France have handed over documents showing "millions of euros" in payments to the firm's distributors in Oman.

Auditors were surprised to see these payments come out of the central budget in Paris rather than the regional budget, which would be more standard practice. Similar money flows were found at Nissan amid suspicions that the cash was used for Ghosn's personal expenses.

Mr Hironaka said he had not yet spoken to his client about the latest allegations.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 03, 2019, with the headline 'Ghosn lawyer calls for separate trial from Nissan'. Print Edition | Subscribe