Lawyers leading defense of Nissan ex-chairman Ghosn resign

Nissan wants a different chairman from Renault - concern for conflict of interest, power imbalance

Thierry Bollore has been named chairman of the holding company responsible for coordinating the Renault-Nissan Alliance, replacing embattled executive Carlos Ghosn in the role.

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.

It was unclear why Ohtsuru was no longer representing Ghosn or if Ghosn had dismissed him. Ghosn was arrested last November over allegations of financial misconduct, and was subsequently removed from his positions as chairman and representative director at Nissan.

Motonari Ohtsuru, the lawyer who had initially headed his defence, resigned as of Wednesday.

Hironaka's career includes a successful defense of Atsuko Muraki, a former senior bureaucrat, against corruption charges.

Renault will scrap around 460,000 performance shares attributed to Ghosn since 2014-2015 and now worth 26 million euros, under proposals backed by the French government, its biggest shareholder, two people familiar with the matter said.

Earlier Otsuru's firm issued a brief statement saying only that he and another lawyer had "submitted letters of resignation to the court as the defence lawyers for the case of Mr. Ghosn".

Nobuo Gohara, a former prosecutor, told Reuters hiring Hironaka would mean a more aggressive legal strategy.

Ghosn has tried without success to gain release on bail, offering to wear an electronic monitoring device and hire security guards acceptable to the authorities.

He suggested Mr Ohtsuru had not been forceful enough in asserting his client's innocence. Suspects often are re-arrested on suspicion of new charges to keep them in custody while prosecutors attempt to build a case, and bail is the exception more than the rule.

Ghosn's representatives say he was unaware the 50,000 euro rental of a palace within the Chateau de Versailles grounds had been charged to Renault, and now plans to repay it.

Renault said in a statement that its board unanimously made a decision to waive Ghosn's "non-compete commitment and, consequently, not to pay the corresponding compensation equal to two years fixed and variable compensation".

"The board unanimously notes that such condition is not met, thereby triggering the loss of Mr. Ghosn's rights".

The auto maker also cancelled shares granted to Ghosn from 2015 to 2018, which were subject to his continued presence at Renault.

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