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Former Nissan director Kelly in new jeopardy as Tokyo prosecutors appeal verdict

After a 17-month trial before the Tokyo District Court, Kelly was found guilty March 3 of aiding Ghosn, the former Chairman of Nissan and Renault, during just one of eight years under scrutiny by prosecutors. Kelly was cleared of any wrongdoing in the other seven years.

A three-judge panel gave Kelly a six-month suspended sentence.

Under the terms of Kelly’s suspended sentence, the Tennessee lawyer and former human resources executive was allowed to return to the U.S. He arrived in Nashville on March 14.

In a terse one-line statement announcing the appeal, the Tokyo District Prosecutor’s Office did not explain the rationale behind the move to revisit the not-guilty counts of the verdict.

But last week, prosecutors took issue with the Tokyo District Court’s decision, which was based largely on judge’s determination that the main witness against Kelly lacked credibility. That was because the witness took a plea bargain with authorities to shield himself against prosecution.

Prosecutors had tried to build a case “centering on objective evidence rather than the credibility of testimonies,” Morimoto said at a regular briefing.

“It is regrettable that the court did not recognize our arguments, and we are not convinced about this. If we do not appeal, Kelly’s innocence for the first seven years will be established,” he said.

Kelly’s defense team had already filed an appeal against the guilty verdict, insisting on full exoneration for their client. In comments earlier this week, Kelly called his guilty verdict “illogical.”

“The judge ruled in our favor on everything except for one minor issue,” Kelly said, adding that he essentially “won” the case. “And we will appeal that.”

One of Kelly’s defense attorneys in Japan said it is “theoretically” possible that Kelly could be extradited, if he is found guilty and sentenced, and if the U.S. government accedes. But he said there is almost no precedent for such a move.

“The prosecutor’s story is just an empty theory,” he said. “We believe Greg will be completely acquitted in the higher court.”

Kelly’s legal team has said the appeals process could go on for another year, although Kelly does not need to be present in Japan during the proceedings.

Prosecutors accused Ghosn and Kelly of hiding some 9.3 billion yen ($80.5 million) in postponed compensation from 2010 to 2018. Both men, arrested the same day in 2018, deny wrongdoing.

But after Ghosn fled Japan for Lebanon in 2019, Kelly was left to fight the charges alone.

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