Japan prosecutors seek two years' jail for Ghosn aide Kelly

Tokyo (AFP) –


Japanese prosecutors on Wednesday sought a two-year jail sentence for Greg Kelly, a former aide of fugitive ex-Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn, on trial over financial misconduct allegations.

While Ghosn is at large in Lebanon after fleeing Japan in an audio equipment box, Kelly is the only person to stand trial over claims Nissan tried to hide planned payments to the auto tycoon.

In a Tokyo court, prosecutors also demanded that Nissan, standing trial as a firm alongside Kelly, be fined 200 million yen ($1.8 million).

The defence will deliver their final arguments on October 27 and the verdict could follow several months later.

Prosecutors alleged that the 65-year-old American lawyer and former top Nissan executive played a key role in what they described as a conspiracy to under-report Ghosn's compensation between 2010 and 2018.

Falsifying annual securities reports can carry a sentence of up to 10 years under Japanese law.

Kelly has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing and is living in Tokyo, out on bail and forbidden from leaving Japan while fighting the case.

The Nissan scandal erupted in November 2018 when Ghosn and Kelly were arrested in Tokyo, grabbing headlines and sending shockwaves around the corporate world.

Ghosn was slapped with a series of financial misconduct charges, including allegations he was to receive payment after retirement that should have been declared but was not.

The charges against Kelly involve payments of around 9.2 billion yen ($83 million at current rates) that prosecutors say was promised to his former boss upon retirement.

Nissan has pleaded guilty to the charge against it over the alleged payments.

But both Kelly and Ghosn say no final agreement was made on any post-retirement pay, and therefore no disclosure was legally required.

- Vast fallout -

Ghosn, a French, Lebanese and Brazilian national, jumped bail and fled to Lebanon in December 2019, where he remains a fugitive.

He says he fled for fear he would not receive a fair trial, and claims the charges against him were cooked up by Nissan executives opposed to his plans to more closely integrate the firm with French partner Renault.

The fallout from Ghosn's arrest has been vast, with Nissan's CEO forced out after his own financial irregularities were uncovered in a subsequent probe.

And Ghosn's audacious escape has also prompted legal fallout around the globe.

In July, a Japanese court sentenced an American father-son duo who helped Ghosn flee the country to two years in prison after the pair was extradited from the United States.

Former US special forces operative Michael Taylor and his son Peter were convicted of helping smuggle a disguised Ghosn onto a private jet in a box.

Two pilots and another employee of a small private airline in Turkey, where Ghosn switched planes before heading to Lebanon, have also been sentenced to four years and two months for their role in the escape.

Ghosn was questioned by French investigators in Lebanon in May over a series of alleged financial improprieties. But he was only heard as a witness, and would need to be in France to be formally indicted.

The Ghosn saga has continued to stalk Nissan as it battles weak demand during the pandemic and a global shortage of microchips.

But earlier this year, the Japanese carmaker told shareholders it projected a return to the black in the current financial year as the industry recovers.