Home >News >World >Carlos Ghosn leaves Nissan’s Kelly to face the music alone
Carlos Ghosn (Photo: Reuters)
Carlos Ghosn (Photo: Reuters)

Carlos Ghosn leaves Nissan’s Kelly to face the music alone

  • Greg Kelly’s lawyer Yoichi Kitamura said he expects his client’s trial to start in April as planned
  • Tokyo University law professor Wataru Tanaka had been asked by Ghosn’s lawyers to provide expert testimony for the case

Carlos Ghosn’s decision to flee to Lebanon last week effectively ended his legal prosecution in Japan, leaving former Nissan Motor Co. executive Greg Kelly at the center of the sprawling case.

Under Japanese criminal law, only minor accusations can be tried without a defendant, according to Nobuo Gohara, a former prosecutor. That’s not Ghosn. If found guilty of the allegations of financial misconduct, the chairman and chief executive officer of Nissan and Renault SA could have been sentenced to more than 10 years in prison.

Tokyo University law professor Wataru Tanaka had been asked by Ghosn’s lawyers to provide expert testimony for the case. Now, Tanaka said, the lawyers don’t expect Ghosn’s trial to continue.

Absent Ghosn, Kelly could become a proxy for whether the former auto titan is considered innocent or guilty. The two were arrested on the same day; Kelly remains in Japan to face charges that allege he help understate Ghosn’s compensation by tens of millions of dollars. “Whether or not Kelly is proved guilty or not will let us judge whether Ghosn’s arrest was just," Gohara said.

Kelly’s lawyer Yoichi Kitamura said he expects his client’s trial to start in April as planned.

Ghosn’s arrest has called attention to Japan’s criminal justice system, which boasts a conviction rate of over 99% and had been criticized for long detention times. Ghosn spent almost 130 days in jail and said he was repeatedly questioned by prosecutors without a lawyer present. Prosecutors have said they acted in accordance with Japanese law.

A lawyer for Ghosn said his client was questioned an average of seven hours a day without a lawyer present. Takashi Takano said on his blog post Saturday the questioning continued through weekends, Thanksgiving and Christmas. Takano has said he told Ghosn he couldn’t expect a fair trial in Japan, but his chances of winning were good because the evidence against him was so weak.

Japan’s judicial system has come under fire over Ghosn’s case. Critics have for years said the prolonged detentions tend to coerce false confessions. Suspects can be detained even without any charges. Japanese prosecutors and Justice Minister Masako Mori have repeatedly defended the nation’s system as upholding human rights, noting Japan boasts a low crime rate. He said the system follows appropriate procedures under Japanese law, stressing that every culture is different.

Takano said he recently looked at prosecutors’ data and Ghosn’s notes to tally the hours of questioning for 70 of the days Ghosn was detained. On three days, Ghosn had been questioned for some 11 hours, according to Takano’s tally.

“I’m interested to see what happens to the careers of the people involved," said Colin Jones, a professor of law at Doshisha University. “The ministry of justice is run by prosecutors. It will be interesting to see if people’s career paths reflect some kind of negative impact."

Following Ghosn’s cinematic escape, prosecutors failed in an attempt to seize a computer used by Ghosn from the offices of his legal defense team. They’ve also obtained an arrest warrant for Ghosn’s wife Carole on charges of false testimony.

During a press conference last week in Beirut, Ghosn insisted he would stand anywhere he could get a fair hearing. He also acknowledged the former colleague he’d left behind.

“Greg remains a victim of the Japanese hostage justice system, with no trial date in sight 14 months after his arrest," Ghosn said. “He is being punished precisely because he is honorable and refused to participate in a suspicious plea-bargaining agreement."

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