Greg Kelly, former collaborator of Carlos Ghosn at Nissan accused like him of financial embezzlement, pleaded, Tuesday, September 15, not guilty at the opening of his trial in Tokyo, where he appears without his former boss, on the run to Lebanon.
“I think the elements will prove that I did not violate the rules” Japanese scholarship holders, said Mr. Kelly at the opening of the trial, the day of his 64e anniversary. He had arrived at court shortly before accompanied by three of his lawyers, wearing a mask and a charcoal gray suit.
His trial is scheduled to last around ten months and comes nearly two years after his arrest in Japan, which took place on the same day as Mr. Ghosn’s. The former big boss of Renault and Nissan having escaped Japanese justice, Mr. Kelly finds himself on the front line in this trial, alongside the Japanese group, sued as a legal person. A Nissan representative confirmed at trial Tuesday that the group will plead guilty.
Mr Kelly and Nissan are accused of illegally and knowingly failing to mention in the automaker’s annual stock reports from 2010 to 2018 a total compensation of around 9.2 billion yen (73 million euros) that Mr. Ghosn was supposed to touch later.
“I deny the charges. I did not participate in a criminal conspiracy ”, insisted Tuesday Mr. Kelly. He acknowledged having worked with others, both internally and externally, on a “Legal” to pay Mr. Ghosn more from 2010, to dissuade him from joining another company where he would have been better paid.
It was in Nissan’s interest at the time to retain this “Extraordinary leader” who saved the group from bankruptcy and who “Fiercely protected its independence” vis-à-vis Renault, he insisted.
In early 2020, during his first public appearance in Beirut after his flight from Japan, Mr. Ghosn reaffirmed that he had been the victim of a “stunt” by certain Nissan officials, who wanted to bring him down to prevent him from returning. the Renault-Nissan alliance “Irreversible”, without going so far as to merge the two companies.
Mr Kelly was released on bail at Christmas 2018, after more than a month in pre-trial detention, but with a ban on leaving Japan pending trial. He faces up to ten years in prison.
Nissan and the prosecution claim to have accumulated evidence that these future payments had been guaranteed to Mr. Ghosn. They should therefore have been declared in the automaker’s reports, under Japanese stock market rules.
Investigators have amassed an astronomical amount of documents in this case. Mr. Kelly’s defense, however, complains that it only had access to a fraction of these documents.
No confidence in the Japanese justice system
Another major disadvantage: “Foreign witnesses who are very helpful to Mr. Kelly do not trust the Japanese justice system”, fearing to fall into a trap and be arrested upon their arrival in Japan, like Mr. Kelly at the end of 2018, recently lamented one of his lawyers, James Wareham, interviewed by AFP. ” They are afraid. They will not come to testify in Japan ”, he added.
The prosecution and the court also rejected Camp Kelly’s request to allow witnesses to be heard outside Japan by videoconference. Mr Kelly’s request for simultaneous interpretation of the hearing proceedings was also denied. The imposed choice of a consecutive interpretation has the effect of considerably lengthening the length of the trial, according to his defense.
Nissan has already agreed at the end of 2019 to pay a fine of 2.4 billion yen (nearly 20 million euros) to the Japan Financial Services Agency (FSA) for failing to mention Mr. Ghosn’s deferred payments. The Japanese manufacturer has also already agreed to pay 15 million dollars to the United States (12.5 million euros) in an amicable agreement with the American authorities on the same file.
Mr. Ghosn, who like Mr. Kelly claims his innocence across the board, had agreed to pay $ 1 million to the same American authorities to avoid being prosecuted in the United States on this same aspect of the case. Mr. Kelly had for his part agreed to pay a fine of 100,000 dollars.