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With Nissan’s Carlos Ghosn Gone, Greg Kelly Faces Trial Alone

作者:admin 2020-09-16

ImageWith Nissan’s Carlos Ghosn Gone, Greg Kelly Faces Trial Alone

Already a household name in Japan when he was arrested, Mr. Ghosn added to his notoriety by hiring private security contractors to lead a daring escape in late December from his home in Tokyo to Lebanon, where he is a citizen and safe from extradition.

While Mr. Kelly’s story lacks some of the drama of his former boss’s international escapade, his attorney, James Wareham, says it too illuminates the inherent difficulty of beating Japan’s justice system at its own game.

In the months leading up to his trial, Mr. Kelly has spent most of his waking hours poring over boxes of documents related to the prosecution’s case against him, according to Mr. Wareham. Even as his trial began, prosecutors had yet to hand over more than 70 other boxes, the lawyer added. The sheer quantity of documents, amounting to more than a billion pages, has already overwhelmed the team of attorneys hired to examine them on Mr. Kelly’s behalf.

“It is not just odd and usual,” Mr. Wareham said. “It’s barbaric.”

He spoke by phone from the United States. Because of the coronavirus, Japan has placed strict entry restrictions on foreigners, effectively stopping Mr. Wareham from attending Mr. Kelly’s trial. Mr. Kelly is also represented by a team of Japanese attorneys who will present his defense to the court.

The prosecutors’ office declined to comment on Mr. Kelly’s case.

Japan’s ministry of justice has disputed statements by Mr. Ghosn and Mr. Kelly that the system is unfair, arguing that its design ensures “basic individual human rights” and that the men have been treated as well as they would have been in any other wealthy, democratic nation.

Nevertheless, in March, three Republican senators from Mississippi and Tennessee, where Mr. Kelly worked for Nissan, wrote an op-ed expressing concerns about the prosecutors’ treatment of the former executive. They said it had raised “serious questions about whether non-Japanese executives can comfortably work in Japan under its legal system.” Mr. Kelly spent $220,000 this year lobbying American lawmakers about his case.

Mr. Kelly began working at Nissan in 1988. By the time of his arrest, he was a director at the company and a trusted adviser to Mr. Ghosn.

Mr. Kelly’s troubles started in November 2018, when he was summoned to Japan by Nissan executives to attend a meeting of the company’s board of directors. He initially wanted to skip the meeting because he had planned to undergo spinal surgery two weeks later, but he got on a flight after he was assured he would be back in time for Thanksgiving. When the plane landed, Japanese prosecutors were waiting for him.

They detained him for more than 30 days, interrogating him for hours without a lawyer present. He stayed in jail until Christmas Day, when he was released on bail. He is now living in a Tokyo apartment with his wife, Dee Kelly. Ms. Kelly was unable to get a spousal visa to join him. Instead, she enrolled in a Japanese language school and came to the country on a student visa.

Mr. Kelly after being released from a detention centre in Tokyo, in December 2018.Credit...Kim Kyung Hoon/Reuters

Mr. Kelly is not expected to take the stand until next year. His defense team intends to argue that the discussions about Mr. Ghosn’s compensation never resulted in an actual payment or even a commitment to pay him, Mr. Wareham, his attorney, said. In other words, the reason nothing was reported to regulators was there was nothing to report.

Mr. Ghosn, who was also charged with breach of trust and using Nissan funds for his own personal enrichment, has repeatedly said that he is innocent. He has alleged that his arrest was the result of a corporate coup engineered by executives at Nissan determined to prevent a merger between the automaker and its French partner Renault. Nissan, which has also been charged but is cooperating with prosecutors, has denied that claim, saying that the investigation was solely motivated by concerns about executive wrongdoing.

Mr. Kelly’s defense team also subscribes to a version of Mr. Ghosn’s allegations.

“The case has nothing to do with guilt or innocence,” Mr. Wareham said. “It has everything to do with a corporate coup and efforts to allow Japanese citizens to lie and to entrap, all for the benefit of keeping Nissan Japanese. That’s what the whole case is about.”

Two of the Nissan employees Mr. Ghosn and Mr. Kelly believe were at the heart of that coup received cooperation agreements from prosecutors in exchange for providing evidence against the men and testifying at trial. They continue to work at Nissan, where one of them served as head of the legal department until October.

In a statement following the trial, the company said that its own internal investigation had “established that Carlos Ghosn and Greg Kelly intentionally committed serious misconduct and significant violations of corporate ethics.”

“The facts surrounding the misconduct will be shown during the court proceedings and the law will take its course,” it added.

At the trial Tuesday, the prosecutors and Mr. Kelly, too, made remarks to the tribunal of judges who will decide the case’s outcome, according to NHK, the Japanese public broadcaster. Jury trials are the exception, not the rule, in Japan.

The entire proceeding is expected to take at least ten months, assuming no further delays from the pandemic or other unforeseen circumstances. The court plans to hold four hearings in September.

“It’s finally starting after 21 months,” Mr. Kelly’s son, Kevin, said in a phone call from his home in the U.S. “I think he’d rather just be heading home, but at least it’s going.”

Security guards stationed at an entrance to the Tokyo District Court on Tuesday.Credit...Carl Court/Getty Images

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