A Tokyo court on Thursday convicted former Nissan Motor executive Greg Kelly of helping Carlos Ghosn hide pay from financial regulators, but said he had not been responsible for the total $80 million the ex-Nissan chief allegedly failed to disclose.
“The court finds the existence of unpaid remuneration” and the failure to disclose “the grand total” amounted to “false” reporting, the chief judge told Kelly in court.
The judge, however, said Kelly was not aware of all 9.3 billion yen ($80.46 million) of hidden payments over a decade, instead blaming Toshiaki Ohnuma, an official who oversaw details of Ghosn’s compensation as a secretariat official, for some of them. Ohnuma, who was a key witness for the prosecution, was not put on trial in return for his cooperation.
The judge imposed a six month suspended sentence on Kelly.
Nissan was fined 200 million yen ($1.73 million) for its failure to disclose Ghosn’s pay.
The verdict at the end of an 18-month-long trial, and more than three years since Kelly’s arrest alongside Ghosn, may be the closest a Japanese court gets to ruling on the culpability of Nissan’s ex-chief. Ghosn is beyond the reach of Japanese prosecutors after fleeing to Lebanon in 2019 hidden in a box on a private jet.
The charges arose from a financial regulation change in 2010 that required executives earning more than 1 billion yen ($8.71 million) to disclose their pay.
Kelly had denied breaking the law and testified that his only intent was to give Ghosn, who was also the chief executive at Renault, a compensation package that would dissuade him from defecting to a rival automaker.
The ruling means that Kelly may be able to leave Japan for the first time since his arrest.
“While this has been a long three years for the Kelly family, this chapter has come to an end. He and Dee (his wife) can begin their next chapter in Tennessee,” the US Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emmanuel said in a statement.
For now, the once globe-trotting Ghosn is stuck in Lebanon, unable to travel overseas without the risk of arrest and a return to Japan.
In addition to the charge of hiding $80 million of earnings over eight years, Ghosn is also accused of enriching himself at his employer’s expense through $5 million of payments to a Middle East car dealership, and for temporarily transferring personal investment losses to his former employer’s books.
Ghosn has denied all the accusations against him.
- Reuters with additional editing by Sean OMeara