Carlos Ghosn’s lawyer has resigned following his client’s brazen escape to Lebanon.
Junichiro Hironaka and seven other members of the former Nissan chief’s Japanese defense team submitted letters of resignation to the Tokyo district court on Thursday, Hironaka’s law office confirmed to CNN Business.
Ghosn fled to Lebanon late last month, pulling off a stunning breakout from Japan, where he was awaiting trial on charges of financial wrongdoing.
Hironaka said last month that his client’s escape was a “complete surprise.”
Ghosn was arrested in late 2018, and subsequently charged with a litany of criminal offenses, including under-reporting his income and funneling $5 million worth of Nissan money to a car dealership that he controlled.
Ghosn has repeatedly denied the charges, claiming his arrest resulted from a plot to oust him from the automotive empire he had built between Nissan, Renault and Mitsubishi Motors.
The auto titan turned international fugitive has been using his newfound freedom to slam Japan’s criminal justice system, which boasts a conviction rate above 99% once suspects are charged.
He said at a press conference last week that Japan’s court system “violates the most basic principles of humanity.” He pointed to his time in solitary confinement, extended questioning without lawyers present, the lack of a speedy trial and strict bail conditions which included no contact with his wife.
Hironaka said earlier this month that Ghosn’s delayed trial start and the uncertainty over whether he could see his wife may have prompted him to jump bail. The situation must have been “very tough for him,” Hironaka said.
Tokyo prosecutors said in a statement last week that Ghosn “has only himself to blame for being arrested and detained,” and for the conditions of his bail. There was sufficient evidence, they said, to “determine that there was a high probability of obtaining conviction.”
Japanese Justice Minister Masako Mori also said in a statement last week that Ghosn “has been propagating both within Japan and internationally false information on Japan’s legal system and its practice.”
“That is absolutely intolerable,” she said.
Ghosn is currently in legal limbo. He has said that he is willing to face trial in Lebanon, Brazil or France — the three countries where he holds citizenship. But it remains unclear whether Japanese prosecutors would agree to the unorthodox request.
Lebanon, meanwhile, has slapped a travel ban on the former auto chief.
The country received a “red notice” from international police organization Interpol earlier this month, confirming that Ghosn was wanted by police in Japan.
A red notice does not compel law enforcement authorities to arrest fugitives. Lebanon and Japan do not have an extradition treaty, and Lebanese officials have said Ghosn entered the country legally.
— CNN’s Junko Ogura and Hanna Ziady contributed to this report.