• Kyodo

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Tokyo prosecutors sought a two-year prison term Wednesday for Greg Kelly, a former Nissan Motor Co. executive, for helping his former boss Carlos Ghosn underreport his remuneration by millions of yen.

In seeking the prison term during his trial at the Tokyo District Court, prosecutors said Kelly, 65, together with Toshiaki Onuma, a 62-year-old former chief secretary at Nissan, supported a system of “backdoor remuneration.”

Under the scheme, Kelly and Onuma were set to make deferred payments to Ghosn under another name, prosecutors said. They argued the role could only have been performed by Kelly, “who was a strategist with knowledge of the law and trusted by the former chairman.”

The defense counsel for Kelly, who has pleaded not guilty, is scheduled to make its final argument on Oct. 27.

The American lawyer was a close aide of Ghosn, 67, who jumped bail to flee to Lebanon in late 2019. Earlier in his trial, Kelly said he denies the prosecutors’ allegations and “was not involved in a criminal conspiracy.”

Kelly also said that Ghosn — who claimed he feared being “held hostage by a rigged Japanese justice system” in explaining his flight while awaiting trial — could help prove he is innocent of charges of violating the Financial Instruments and Exchange Act.

The prosecutors argue that Ghosn instructed Kelly to find ways to provide him with deferred payments after the former titan of the global automaker agreed to a pay cut at Nissan.

They also claim that Ghosn and Kelly had “concealed the true remuneration” to avoid potential criticism from stakeholders.

Kelly and his defense team denied the claim, saying that Ghosn’s compensation was never agreed upon. The defense team argued Kelly only took lawful actions to retain the former chairman because of his value as a business leader.

For Nissan, which itself is also a defendant in the trial, prosecutors sought a penalty of ¥200 million ($1.8 million). The automaker has pleaded guilty.

According to the indictment, Kelly helped Ghosn conceal his remuneration from shareholders by around ¥9 billion over eight years through March 2018, in a scheme to give deferred payments to the once high-flying industry titan after retirement.

Kelly, who was arrested in November 2018, is suspected of having submitted to Japanese authorities financial reports only listing a total of about ¥7.9 billion as Ghosn’s pay, even though his actual income totaled about ¥17 billion.

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