TOKYO — Some two and a half years after being arrested in Tokyo for allegedly scheming to help Carlos Ghosn hide more than $80 million in deferred compensation, former Nissan director Greg Kelly finally took the stand last week to tell his side of the story.
In his first days of testimony before the Tokyo District Court, the indicted American human resources executive and attorney slowly pieced together the defense he hopes will keep him out of a Japanese prison.
Kelly, who turned 64 the day his trial began last Sept. 15, offered high praise of his former boss Ghosn, who led Nissan as its chairman before his 2018 arrest and subsequent ouster. Kelly described Ghosn as one of the world's top automotive CEOs and said Nissan was lucky to have him.
Kelly, who had been Nissan's top HR executive globally, said he was simply working in the best interests of the company to keep Ghosn from defecting to a competitor. This was especially true from 2010, Kelly said, when Ghosn took a big pay cut to avoid public scrutiny of his compensation.
"We were fortunate to have a CEO as talented as Carlos Ghosn," Kelly said, describing Ghosn as a retention risk. "I was feeling the risk because, especially at that time, he was one of the top one or two automotive executives in the world, but he was making much less money."