Renault said Wednesday that its board has decided not to pay out the equivalent of two years of salary to ex-CEO Carlos Ghosn which would have been due to him under a non-compete clause in his contract.
Hironaka, 73, has won several high-profile cases, helping acquit senior lawmaker Ichiro Ozawa and senior bureaucrat Atsuko Muraki.
Ghosn, arrested and detained in Tokyo since November 19, has been indicted in Japan on charges of under-reporting his salary at Nissan over 2010-2018. He has denied the charges. Otsuru previously led the special prosecutors' office that is now handling Ghosn's case. Prosecutors say the alleged crimes could carry a jail term of up to 10 years.
"Hironaka is the type of lawyer who will thoroughly fight the prosecutors' charge, and he's been able to win acquittals in many big cases", said Nobuo Gohara, a lawyer and former prosecutor in Japan who isn't connected to the case. "He will mount a more thorough and aggressive defense".
The previous lawyers, including Mr Motonari Otsuru, have notified the court that they will no longer represent him as legal counsel, according to an e-mailed statement on Wednesday (Feb 13). Go Kondo, Ghosn's third defense lawyer, was unavailable for comment. "Otsuru-sensei is a very capable and intelligent man and lawyer".More news: Ex-boyfriend charged in death of woman in suitcase
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The surprise shake-up came on the eve of an expected first meeting between the Tokyo District Court, prosecutors, and defence lawyers to discuss the outlines of Ghosn's eventual trial.
"Renault has gathered sufficient evidence to understand and regret the methods used by Nissan and its lawyers to seek interviews with Renault employees through the Japanese public prosecutor's office", they said. "I look forward to defending myself vigorously, and this represents the beginning of the process of not only establishing my innocence but also shedding light on the circumstances that led to my unjust detention".
Last month Ghosn claimed the allegations of financial misconduct against him were the result of "plot and treason" by Nissan executives opposed to deeper integration between Renault and alliance partners Mitsubishi Motors.
Ghosn was widely credited with rescuing Nissan from near-bankruptcy after he was brought over to Japan in 1999 by Renault after the French automaker bought a chunk of Nissan.
Much of the tension between the partners stems from a complex ownership structure that gives Renault 43 percent of Nissan, whereas Nissan owns just 15 percent stake in the French company - and no voting rights.