Former Ghosn Kelly aide confident of winning acquittal ahead of ruling

Former Nissan Motor Co. executive Greg Kelly speaks in an interview with Kyodo News on February 24, 2022. (Kyodo)

TOKYO (Kyodo) — Former Nissan Motor Co. executive Greg Kelly is confident he can secure an acquittal for his alleged involvement in underreporting compensation from his former boss and former corporate superstar Carlos Ghosn while a court must render a decision. Thursday.

“There was no need to report because Carlos Ghosn was never paid, and there was never an agreement to pay Carlos Ghosn,” Kelly said in a recent interview with Kyodo News. “This is not a criminal case, and no one should go to jail for anything.”

Kelly, the 65-year-old former Nissan representative director and close associate of Ghosn, is accused of conspiring with Ghosn, Nissan’s former chairman, by understating his compensation by around 9 billion yen ($77.9 million). dollars) over eight years to March 2018, violating Financial Instruments and Foreign Exchange Law in Japan.

During the trial which began in September 2020, prosecutors argued that Kelly played a role in developing a plan to compensate Ghosn with deferred payments on top of his regular salary, a scheme intended to avoid negative reactions to his high salary. They required two years in prison.

Kelly said he and former chairman Hiroto Saikawa looked for ways to retain Ghosn even after his retirement so he could provide services to contribute to Nissan’s profits, but “there was never a ‘agreement reached’.

The decision, due by the Tokyo District Court on March 3, will be the first court ruling on a high-profile financial scandal that began to unfold when Ghosn and Kelly were arrested in a surprise sweep in Japan. in November 2018. .

Ghosn skipped bail and fled in late 2019 to Lebanon, which does not have an extradition treaty with Japan. Other Nissan officials reached plea deals with prosecutors, leaving Kelly the only company executive to stand trial.

Kelly said he wished Ghosn had been in Japan during the trial because he could have testified that there was no agreement for an alleged deferred payment. “But unfortunately he was not.”

When asked if he had anything to say to Ghosn, Kelly replied “not particularly”, adding that “he made a decision that he thought was the right one for him and his family”.

Two Americans who helped Ghosn escape by hiding him in a box and flying him on a private jet to Turkey have been sentenced to prison terms of two years and 20 months, respectively, after were convicted last year in a trial in Japan.

Ghosn claimed Nissan was behind his arrest because he wanted to prevent him from pursuing a merger with its alliance partner and major shareholder Renault SA, an arrangement the Japanese company feared would undermine its independence.

Kelly described his life on bail in Japan as “stressful and difficult” as he was held “10,000 miles away from my family and friends for three years”, and was unable to see his grandsons.

“(It’s) not fair to take so much time out of your life on a deal where nobody got paid. There was no deal to pay anything,” he said. declared.

The new US ambassador to Japan, Rahm Emanuel, promised to prioritize Kelly’s case during a congressional hearing in the US ahead of his arrival in Japan last month. Kelly said he had been in contact with Emanuel through the US Embassy.

“He clearly understands that this is really not a criminal case,” Kelly said. “I understand he supports and continues to support.”

Kelly stayed in Japan with his wife and says they are looking forward to returning to the United States after the decision.

“We can’t wait, as we say in English, to make up for lost time with the people we cherish,” he said.

(Toma Mochizuki and Mariko Tamura contributed to this article)

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