Former Nissan Motor Co. Director Greg Kelly testified in court in Tokyo for the first time, saying he considered Carlos Ghosn a flight risk after the ex-chairman voluntarily reduced his own pay, and that he looked for legal ways to keep him at the automaker.
“I and other executives believed that after Mr. Ghosn reduced his salary, well below that of other global executives, that Mr. Ghosn was a retention risk,” Kelly said in response to questions by his defense counsel. He denied that there was a conspiracy to inflate the executive’s pay.
Kelly, 64, was arrested the same day as Ghosn in November 2018 and has been in Japan ever since, seeking to prove his innocence against charges of helping Ghosn underreport his remuneration by more than 9 billion yen ($83 million).
Much has happened in the 900-plus days since the two were detained. Ghosn made a spectacular escape from Japan at the end of 2019, making his way by private jet to Lebanon. Nissan’s profits tumbled and its alliance with Renault SA and Mitsubishi Motors Corp. has frayed. Details emerged showing that a small group of insiders worked for months before Ghosn’s arrest to bring a criminal case against him.
Kelly’s testimony at the Tokyo District Court on Wednesday started the final phase of proceedings in a trial that began eight months ago. During that time, Kelly has sat quietly as current and former Nissan executives, experts and other witnesses took the stand. Flanked by his lawyers and taking notes, he occasionally leans to one of them to ask questions.
His wife Dee attends most days, unless she needs to be at the Japanese school where she enrolled in order to obtain a student visa to be with her husband. Proceedings are slow, because every question and answer is translated into English or Japanese.
On Wednesday, Kelly was at the witness stand, dressed in a dark gray suit with a red tie, going over his background and responsibilities at Nissan in a courtroom filled with more than the usual number of people, including 17 journalists and over two dozen in the gallery.