Defence seeks acquittal for Ghosn aide Kelly in Tokyo

Tokyo (AFP) – Defence lawyers on Wednesday demanded the acquittal of former Nissan executive Greg Kelly in Tokyo, where the US citizen faces jail over financial misconduct allegations.


Japanese prosecutors are seeking a two-year prison sentence for Kelly, a former aide to ex-Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn.

Kelly, 65, is the only person to stand trial over claims Nissan tried to hide planned payments to auto tycoon Ghosn, who jumped bail and fled Japan hidden in an audio equipment box in December 2019.

"Greg Kelly is not guilty," Yoichi Kitamura told the Tokyo District Court in closing arguments for the defence.

"The evidence showed that what we outlined during the defence opening argument was correct."

Kitamura said prosecutors had failed to prove that Kelly was behind what they call a conspiracy to under-report Ghosn's compensation over several years.

The charges against Kelly involve around 9.1 billion yen ($80 million at current rates) that prosecutors say was promised to his former boss upon retirement.

Kelly and Ghosn -- a fugitive in Lebanon -- were arrested in Tokyo in 2018, sending shockwaves around the business world.

They have both maintained their innocence, saying no final agreement was made on any post-retirement pay, and therefore no disclosure was legally required.

Nissan, which is standing trial as a company alongside Kelly, has pleaded guilty and on Wednesday asked the judge for leniency ahead of the verdict, expected in March.

Prosecutors have demanded Nissan be fined 200 million yen, but the firm's lawyers said the alleged misconduct "was carried out to benefit Ghosn as an individual" and not Nissan.

It comes after Rahm Emanuel, nominated as the next US ambassador to Japan, said last week he would prioritise Kelly's case.

"The number one responsibility of an embassy ambassador is to ensure the safety of a US citizen on foreign soil," Emanuel told the Senate.

"You have my word... this is not just another piece of business to be checked off. I'm going to be approaching this subject as a former US congressman who knows what it means when you have a constituent at heart."