AP Interview: Lawyer says Kelly innocent of Ghosn pay scheme

Yoichi Kitamura, the defense lawyer for Greg Kelly, who is on trial in Japan on charges related to former Nissan Chairman Carlos Ghosns compensation, speaks to The Associated Press at his Tokyo office Friday, March 5, 2021.  The lawyer for former Nissan Motor Co.'s executive Kelly, said his client was merely trying to prevent Ghosn from going to a rival automaker. (AP Photo/Yuri Kageyama)
Yoichi Kitamura, the defense lawyer for Greg Kelly, who is on trial in Japan on charges related to former Nissan Chairman Carlos Ghosns compensation, speaks to The Associated Press at his Tokyo office Friday, March 5, 2021. The lawyer for former Nissan Motor Co.'s executive Kelly, said his client was merely trying to prevent Ghosn from going to a rival automaker. (AP Photo/Yuri Kageyama)

TOKYO – The chief lawyer for Greg Kelly, an American on trial in Japan on charges of under-reporting Nissan former Chairman Carlos Ghosn’s compensation, says his client was merely trying to prevent Ghosn from going to a rival automaker.

“Greg has no motive at all to commit such a crime,” Yoichi Kitamura said Friday at his Tokyo office.

At the time, Kelly, then a Nissan executive vice president, was making good money, had a successful career and moreover, was a lawyer.

“He talks like a lawyer, and he thinks like a lawyer,” Kitamura said. “He wouldn’t do anything wrong or illegal.”

Kelly and Ghosn were arrested in late 2018 and are the only Nissan officials who were charged. Ghosn jumped bail in December 2019, and fled to Lebanon, which has no extradition treaty with Japan. He also says he is innocent.

The trial, which began in September, has shown that top officials at Nissan Motor Co., including Kelly and former Chief Executive Hiroto Saikawa, all knew Ghosn took a drastic pay cut after the disclosure of high executive pay became required in Japan in 2010.

Prosecutors have alleged that Kelly was involved in trying to help Ghosn hide compensation. Kitamura says Kelly was not aware of earlier planning for Ghosn’s pay that might have violated the law.

Kelly, according to Kitamura, was just working out ways to pay Ghosn after retirement, through consulting fees and arranging a “non-compete” to prevent him from going to a rival automaker. Such pay doesn’t need to be disclosed in advance.