TOKYO – The trial of former Nissan Motor Co. chairman Carlos Ghosn could begin as soon as the fall, his lawyer said, suggesting the court does not want the case to take years, as they often do in Japan.
“They want to move the proceedings ahead as quickly as possible,” said defense lawyer Junichiro Hironaka after a meeting Wednesday at which representatives of the Tokyo District Court, the prosecution and the defense discussed logistics. He said the court was looking to start the trial as soon as this fall, although he said it was too soon to say for sure.
Hironaka said formal pretrial proceedings would begin May 23. At those proceedings, both sides will outline the key points of their arguments and the court will seek to define the trial’s core issues so as to speed up the case. Lawyers not involved in the case say the trial is likely to be heard by a panel of three judges.
Tokyo deputy chief prosecutor Shin Kukimoto declined to comment.
Ghosn was arrested Nov. 19. Formal charges were filed against him on three occasions, with the final set of charges coming Jan. 11. He is accused of misstating deferred compensation on Nissan’s annual financial statements to regulators and funneling Nissan money to the business of a Saudi friend who helped him with a personal financial problem.
Ghosn says he is innocent. He says he had hypothetical discussions about future compensation but it wasn’t fixed and didn’t have to be reported. He says Nissan paid the Saudi company for “critical services that substantially benefited Nissan.”
Ghosn was freed from jail earlier this month after paying nearly $9 million in bail. His release is unusual for Japan’s legal system, where defendants who deny wrongdoing are typically kept behind bars until trial or shortly before, according to lawyers not involved in the case.
Trials in Japan often take years to finish. In a recent case involving the former head of the collapsed bitcoin exchange Mt Gox, the trial started nearly two years after his arrest, and the trial itself took 20 months. The defendant, Mark Karpeles, was found not guilty March 15 on the more serious charges against him and given a suspended sentence, meaning he probably won’t serve prison time.