Carlos Ghosn changes to hotshot attorney and a new defense strategy

Carlos Ghosn is being held in Japan on charges he under-reported millions of dollars in pay as head of Nissan

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

Carlos Ghosn's chief defense attorney Motonari Otsuru has resigned and has been replaced by a team that includes hotshot lawyer Junichiro Hironaka, who is in charge of strategy for the ousted Nissan boss.

Junichiro Hironaka, 73, a high-profile defence lawyer with a string of courtroom victories to his name, will represent the auto industry executive who has spent the past three months in detention in Tokyo.

Ghosn thanked his former legal team "for their tireless and diligent work and courage during the interrogation phase", but said he wanted to hire a different lawyer for the trial.

Lawyers for French carmaker Renault have criticised their Japanese alliance partner Nissan for its handling of an internal probe into the Carlos Ghosn scandal, a Sunday newspaper has reported.

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The executive's arrest in November has exposed rifts between Renault and Nissan, which some analysts say was bristling at Ghosn's efforts to bring the two automakers' operations even closer together.

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

Renault appointed new Chairman Jean-Dominique Senard on January 24 and last week passed evidence to prosecutors that the company had paid part of Ghosn's 2016 Versailles wedding costs, in the first case of his suspected misconduct at the French carmaker.

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.

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Left intact, his golden parachute could have been politically explosive in France, where President Macron is battling "yellow vest" street protests over low pay and inequality.

Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire had asked the government's lead board representative at Renault to "ensure that Mr Ghosn's compensation is cut as much as possible", a ministry official said on Wednesday. "It's not about the presumption of innocence but ethics and decency".

The amount of salary expense for Ghosn reflects what the company sees as compensation that was promised, but not yet paid.

At current prices, the 100,000 Renault shares from 2015 would be worth some 5.7 million euros.

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The vehicle maker also cancelled shares granted to Ghosn from 2015 to 2018, which were subject to his continued presence at Renault. Senard will visit Nissan's Japanese headquarters on Thursday and Friday, local media reported.

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