Greg Kelly, former assistant to Carlos Ghosn, arrives in Tokyo court on March 3, 2022 to hear the verdict in the Nissan financial misconduct case (AFP/CHARLY TRIBALLEAU)
Greg Kelly was given a six-month suspended sentence Thursday following the conclusion of a Tokyo embezzlement trial, the first criminal conviction against Carlos Ghosn, who he worked at Nissan before his fall.
This sentence is much lighter than the two years in prison prosecutors have demanded from Mr. Kelly, who is appealing his sentence.
This 65-year-old American lawyer, the former head of Nissan’s legal department, became the main defendant in this case by default? following Mr Ghosn’s flight to Lebanon at the end of 2019.
Mr. Kelly pleaded not guilty, but Nissan, who was tried in this court as a legal entity, pleaded guilty.
The Japanese automaker was fined 200 million yen (1.6 million euros) in accordance with the requirements of the prosecutor’s office.
The Ghosn case began in Japan with the notorious arrest in November 2018 of a big boss of the Renault-Nissan alliance, who was released on bail in 2019.
Mr. Kelly was arrested on the same day as Mr. Ghosn and on the same original charge: he failed to declare to the Japanese stock market authorities for years the reward that the French-Lebanese-Brazilian was to receive later from Nissan.
Carlos Ghosn denounced on Thursday a “shocking verdict” but said it was “predictable.” “The only uncertainty was how the judge would justify such a thing,” the businessman said in an online interview with reporters.
– “Shocked” –
Prosecutors accused Mr. Kelly of helping Mr. Ghosn hide 9.1 billion yen (about 70 million euros) of deferred compensation for the period 2010-2018 from Japanese stock market authorities.
Greg Kelly, a former assistant to Carlos Ghosn, on February 6, 2020, in his Tokyo apartment where he was held by Japanese authorities while awaiting trial for Nissan Financial Misconduct (AFP/Behrouz MEHRI)
The court found Mr. Kelly guilty of these facts, but only for the 2017/18 financial year, finding that he was previously unaware of the “conspiracies” of Mr. Ghosn and another Nissan official at the time, Toshiaki Onuma, for these pending payments.
Mr. Onuma was not prosecuted by the Japanese courts because he had whistleblower status.
In a statement Thursday, Mr. Kelly said he was “extremely surprised and shocked” by his conviction, reiterating that he had “absolutely no involvement in illegal activities.” His lawyers said they would appeal.
During nearly a year and a half of litigation, his defense argued that neither the amounts nor the timing of these payments were accurately established, and therefore there was no need for Nissan to publish this information.
Sketch of American Greg Kelly’s courtroom on the first day of his trial, September 15, 2020, Tokyo. (JIJI PRESS/Masato YAMASHITA)
Mr. Kelly assured that Nissan was looking for a “legitimate way” to keep Mr. Ghosn after his retirement to prevent him from joining a rival group.
After spending a month in pre-trial detention after his arrest in Japan, Mr. Kelly has since been living on bail with a ban from leaving Japan until his trial is over.
– “Three long years” –
“We are pleased that the legal process has come to an end and that the Kellys can return home” to Tennessee (southern US), said US Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel, who followed the case, in a press release Thursday. close. “It has been three long years for the Kelly family, but this chapter has come to an end,” he added soberly.
“Kelly was arrested in the hope that he would turn around and testify against Ghosn,” but after the latter escaped, prosecutors found themselves “with a weak and limited case against Kelly,” according to Stephen Givens, a Tokyo-based business lawyer. was interviewed by AFP before sentencing.
According to Mr. Givens, the Japanese judges faced a “dilemma” because an acquittal would be “humiliating” for prosecutors and for Nissan.
The deferred compensation component was supposed to be just the starter of Mr. Ghosn’s trials in Japan. Because Japanese justice also wanted to try the former boss on charges of breach of trust, but this time only against him.
Carlos Ghosn during a press conference in Jounieh, September 29, 2020, Lebanon (AFP/ANWAR AMRO)
Mr. Ghosn, who professes innocence, has been issued an arrest warrant by Interpol at Japan’s request, but Lebanon does not extradite its citizens.
The ousted car tycoon continues to be involved in two lawsuits in France: over consultancy contracts awarded by Renault-Nissan’s Dutch subsidiary RNBV, and over misuse of corporate assets and money laundering.