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Ghosn aide Kelly seeks acquittal in Tokyo trial

By AFP
27 October 2021   |   11:40 am
Former Nissan executive Greg Kelly said Wednesday he was "not guilty of any crime" as the defence wrapped up its case in Tokyo, where he faces jail over financial misconduct allegations.

Greg Kelly, former representative director of Nissan Motor Co., arrives for the first trial hearing at the Tokyo District Court in Tokyo, Japan, September 15, 2020. Kiyoshi Ota/Pool via REUTERS TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

Former Nissan executive Greg Kelly said Wednesday he was “not guilty of any crime” as the defence wrapped up its case in Tokyo, where he faces jail over financial misconduct allegations.

Japanese prosecutors are seeking a two-year prison sentence for Kelly, a US citizen and former aide to ex-Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn.

Kelly, 65, is the only person to stand trial over claims Nissan tried to hide planned payments to auto tycoon Ghosn, who jumped bail and fled Japan hidden in an audio equipment box in December 2019.

“I was not involved in a criminal conspiracy, and I am not guilty of any crime,” Kelly said in his closing remarks at the Tokyo District Court.

The actions taken “to find a lawful way to retain Mr Carlos Ghosn after he retired were in the best interests of Nissan,” he added.

His defence lawyers said prosecutors had failed to prove Kelly was behind an alleged plot to under-report Ghosn’s compensation over several years.

The charges against Kelly involve around 9.1 billion yen ($80 million at current rates) that prosecutors say was promised to his former boss upon retirement.

“It is clear that the prosecution’s portrayal of Kelly is unfairly distorted,” Kelly’s lawyer Yoichi Kitamura told the court.

“There’s no indication that Kelly had any personal interest in considering the payment for Ghosn… the only possible conclusion in this case is acquittal.”

Kelly and Ghosn — a fugitive in Lebanon — were arrested in Tokyo in 2018, sending shock waves through the business world.

They have both maintained their innocence, saying no final agreement was made on any post-retirement pay, and therefore no disclosure was legally required.

“There was no crime,” Kelly said outside court after the hearing. “Carlos Ghosn never was paid anything. And there was no enforceable agreement.”

“Three and a half years, is that being given the right to a speedy trial?” he said, adding he had liked working for Ghosn, but “wasn’t his friend”.

Nissan, standing trial as a company alongside Kelly, has pleaded guilty and on Wednesday asked the judge for leniency ahead of the verdict on March 3.

Prosecutors have demanded Nissan be fined 200 million yen, but the firm’s lawyers said the alleged misconduct “was carried out to benefit Ghosn” and not the company.

It comes after Rahm Emanuel, nominated as the next US ambassador to Japan, said last week he would prioritise Kelly’s case.

“The number one responsibility of an embassy ambassador is to ensure the safety of a US citizen on foreign soil,” Emanuel told the Senate.

“I’m going to be approaching this subject as a former US congressman who knows what it means when you have a constituent at heart.”