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Ghosn’s Alleged Accomplice Fears Fair Trial Odds Have Diminished

Chester Dawson

(Bloomberg) -- The family of the former Nissan Motor Co. director accused of helping Carlos Ghosn violate Japan’s pay-disclosure laws is questioning his ability to get a fair trial.

Greg Kelly was arrested on the same day in late 2018 as Carlos Ghosn, who fled to Lebanon last month. The former Nissan executive can’t leave the country pending the outcome of his case. Without his ex-boss’s testimony, Kelly may not be able to fully defend himself against prosecutors’ allegations he violated Japanese financial laws, his wife said in an email.

“It will be difficult for Greg to get a fair trial with a key witness not available to testify,” Donna “Dee” Kelly wrote to Bloomberg News. The statement echoes remarks her husband made to the Wall Street Journal that were published earlier Monday.

Ghosn’s Hollywood-like escape from Japan threw the legal case against him into limbo and complicates the legal proceedings against Kelly, 63, who faces charges he helped understate the former chairman’s compensation by millions of dollars. Kelly’s lawyer says his trial is expected to get underway in April.

Boss’s Escape

Kelly said her husband was “shocked and surprised” by the news of Ghosn’s secretive departure, which Japanese government officials condemned. But so far, Greg Kelly hasn’t been forced subjected to further restrictions or forced to change his daily routine, she said.

Kelly was released on 70 million yen ($640,000) bail in December 2018, about a month after being jailed shortly after arriving in Japan for a Nissan board meeting. Prosecutors allege he conspired with Ghosn to hide the former chairman’s deferred compensation, a charge that Kelly denies.

In September, Kelly agreed to a $100,000 penalty and five-year suspension from serving as a corporate officer as part of a settlement with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, withoutadmitting or denying the agency’s findings. He had been charged with helping fraudulently conceal over $140 million in compensation and retirement benefits on behalf of his former boss.

New Life

The resident of Nashville, Tennessee, served as one of three senior directors after a more than 30-year career with Nissan. He stepped down from his operational roles in 2015 while retaining the board seat. Far from enjoying semi-retirement at his vacation home in Florida, Kelly has spent the past year preparing for his day in court and living in a rented apartment in a central Tokyo business district.

In this new life, Kelly rises around 6 a.m. and takes a walk or jog around the grounds of Tokyo’s Imperial Palace, followed by a quick breakfast of rice balls or fresh fruit from a nearby 7-Eleven convenience store.

His wife said he then spends much of the day at his Japanese attorney’s office reading through documents from prosecutors and consulting with his legal team. Then it’s back to the small apartment, decorated with a few framed pictures of family and friends, and the recent addition of a miniature Christmas tree.

Learning Japanese

Dee Kelly spends as much time as she can with her husband, but must attend Japanese language school to maintain legal status in Japan as a student. Without that, her stays would be limited to 90-day stints under Japan’s visa-free program for tourists.

Most of Greg Kelly’s friends from his time spent working in Japan have retired, returned to their home country or moved away to their next assignment. The terms of his bail prohibit him from contacting Nissan employees anyway, further limiting his circle of confidants.

“It can be a lonely existence,” Dee Kelly said. “I don’t think that anything good has come from being isolated from family and friends for the last 15 months.”

The toughest aspect of Kelly’s predicament is not being able to see his two sons in the U.S. He was particularly upset not to have been able to be back for the birth of a grandchild last month.

“We had asked permission from the court to go to the U.S. for two weeks at Christmas,” Dee Kelly said. “We never received a response.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Chester Dawson in Southfield at cdawson54@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Craig Trudell at ctrudell1@bloomberg.net, Kevin Miller

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