After a year-and-a-half trial, Greg Kelly, one of Carlos Ghosn’s top aides at the head of Japanese manufacturer Nissan, was sentenced this Thursday morning in a Tokyo court to six months in prison. a suspended prison sentence for involvement in one of the financial embezzlements accused by a former big boss who has been on the run in Lebanon since late 2019.
Without being subject to any arrest warrant, the American lawyer, who was arrested like Carlos Ghosn on the evening of November 19, 2018 in Tokyo, will be able, if he wishes, to leave in the next few months. United States, where his family lives. He was first imprisoned for five weeks immediately after his arrest at the Kosuge Detention Center, and then lived on probation in the Japanese capital with his wife, who had to learn Japanese in order to obtain a visa allowing him to stay in the country.
If the three magistrates who tried the case handed down a guilty verdict on Greg Kelly, then they partially challenged the work of the prosecutor’s office, which demanded a two-year prison sentence in this part of the case, which also involved Carlos Ghosn and Nissan.
Prosecutors accused Greg Kelly of conspiring with a former boss to hide for eight years the real income that the alliance leader hoped to receive. They assured that Greg Kelly, along with Carlos Ghosn and another Nissan executive, Toshiaki Onuma, had set up a deferred compensation system since FY2010.
It was on this day that the Japanese law on the income of the heads of large companies was changed. All of a sudden, executives earning a salary of more than 1 billion yen (7.8 million euros) a year were forced to tell stock market authorities and shareholders the exact amount of their salary.
Prosecutors say Carlos Ghosn, who has already been criticized for his income at Renault, would then have become concerned about this sudden transparency and asked aides to develop an alternative reward system. So, between fiscal years 2010 and 2018, they would split his income between an “official” fee announced publicly and a promise of a deferred and undisclosed payment, almost equivalent. Thus, the prosecution ensured that he could receive an additional 9.1 billion yen when he left the Japanese manufacturer.
Criticism of “confession”
This Thursday, magistrates considered that Greg Kelly’s involvement in this entire alleged assembly was not demonstrated and chided prosecutors for basing much of their charge on the testimony of Toshiaki Onuma, who promptly signed a plea. agreement with them to avoid prosecution. “Therefore, his credibility must be examined very carefully,” Judge Kenji Shimotsu, who presided over the hearing, said in comments compiled by the Associated Press. “There is a risk that he was trying as an accomplice to shift the blame to Ghosn,” he said, before explaining that Greg Kelly therefore cannot be found guilty in the compensation system. for previous financial years.
Greg Kelly, who, like Carlos Ghosn, has always denied the existence of this deferred compensation system, may decide to appeal his verdict in the coming days. A procedure that could be started even if he quickly leaves for the USA. Nissan, which was also under investigation as a legal entity, was fined 200 million yen (1.6 million euros) on Tuesday for failing to disclose the exact amount of compensation promised to its executive.
The verdict put an end to the criminal aspect of the Ghosn case in Japan, which upset the business world in Tokyo for several months and significantly weakened the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance. Two other important parts of the case, concerning aggravated breach of trust, in which only Carlos Ghosn is accused, will probably never be examined in Japan due to the absence of the accused.
However, part of the case remains under scrutiny by French magistrates, who are interested in the possible hexagonal implications of the file. As such, earlier in the week they were due to meet in Beirut, Lebanon, with two witnesses relevant to their investigation, which would lead to either the indictment of the former boss or his dismissal. They interrogated Carlos Ghosn for a long time last year. He categorically denies any criminal behavior and maintains that his downfall was instigated by Nissan executives and high-ranking Japanese officials who wanted by all means to prevent him from starting a merger with Renault.