Ghosn’s lawyers say his trial must be separate from Nissan’s to ensure fairness

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Lawyers for Carlos Ghosn asked a Tokyo court on Tuesday to try the ex-Nissan Motor Co. boss separately from his former employer, arguing he would otherwise not get a fair hearing to fight charges of financial wrongdoing.

The request marks the first major legal maneuver by Ghosn’s new legal team since his release on bail last month, as he faces mounting accusations of financial misconduct during his time at the helm of Nissan and partners Renault SA and Mitsubishi Motors, one of the world’s biggest automaking groups.

The case has shaken the global auto industry and marked a dramatic fall from grace for an executive once lauded for his rescue of Nissan from the brink of bankruptcy two decades ago.

Tokyo prosecutors have indicted Ghosn and Greg Kelly, a close associate who served as a director on Nissan’s board, on financial-misconduct charges. Nissan is also included in the indictment for making false disclosures in annual securities reports, for which the company has expressed regret.

“No matter how you look at it, having Ghosn sit alongside Nissan at the trial would be peculiar, it would go against his right to a fair trial,” his main defense lawyer, Junichiro Hironaka, told a briefing.

Ghosn was arrested in Tokyo in November after Nissan told prosecutors its own investigation uncovered evidence of his wrongdoing. He spent more than 100 days in a detention center before being released on $9 million bail last month. Ghosn, now ousted as chairman of Nissan, denies the charges, as does Kelly.

Ghosn faces criminal charges in Japan over failing to report around $82 million in salary from Nissan, and for temporarily transferring personal financial losses onto Nissan’s books during the global financial crisis.

“It’s right that his lawyers wouldn’t want Ghosn to stand trial with Nissan. Nissan will plead guilty and that would clearly influence the mood of the trial,” said Nobuo Gohara, a lawyer who heads Gohara Compliance and Law Office, which is not involved in the Ghosn case.