TOKYO -- The legal battle of former Nissan Motor Chairman Carlos Ghosn took a twist on Wednesday, with the replacement of his lead defense lawyer.
Former prosecutor Motonari Otsuru and his associate Masato Oshikubo submitted their resignations to the Tokyo District Court. Otsuru was replaced by Junichiro Hironaka, a lawyer renowned for success in high profile cases. No reason was given for the change.
Hironaka and his team have previously won acquittals for Ichiro Ozawa, an influential politician who was accused of breaking political fundraising laws, and Atsuko Muraki, a former senior government official accused of involvement in abuse of the postage discount system.
Otsuru took on the role after Ghosn was arrested on Nov. 19 on suspicion of understating his compensation. As the former head of special investigations at the Tokyo Prosecutors' Office, he has a reputation for successfully leading probes into white-collar crime.
But Otsuru has since acknowledged the challenges of the case, stating in a Jan. 8 news conference that Ghosn could be detained for "at least another six months" before his first trial.
Ghosn was denied bail on Jan. 11, when he was indicted with new charges, including aggravated breach of trust. He applied for bail again on Jan. 18, but remains in detention after the request was refused on Jan. 22.
Ghosn has denied the charges against him. In an interview with the Nikkei on Jan. 30, he said they were part of a plot by Nissan executives who were opposed to his plan for deeper integration with Renault and Mitsubishi Motors.