Nissan's Ghosn gone, American Kelly faces Japan trial alone

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FILE - In this Jan. 8, 2020 file photo, ex-Nissan Motor Co. Chairman Carlos Ghosn speaks at a press conference in Beirut, Lebanon. Former Nissan Motor Co.'s executive Greg Kelly's trial in Tokyo District Court opens Sept. 15, nearly two years after his arrest, and the same day he turns 64 . If convicted of charges related to alleged under-reporting of the automaker's former chairman Ghosn's income, Kelly could face up to a decade in prison. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo, File)

TOKYO – His boss Carlos Ghosn escaped financial misconduct charges by fleeing the country, but another former Nissan executive is still awaiting trial in Japan: Greg Kelly.

Kelly's trial in Tokyo District Court is to open Sept. 15, nearly two years after his arrest, and the same day he turns 64 . If convicted of charges related to alleged under-reporting of Ghosn's income, Kelly could face up to a decade in prison.

Even if acquitted, he has already paid a heavy price, unable to leave Japan and go home to Tennessee while out on bail. He has yet to see his newborn grandchild. His wife got a student visa to stay with him in Tokyo.

Kelly, like Ghosn, says he is innocent.

Tokyo prosecutors say Kelly and Ghosn, the former chairman of Nissan Motor Co., violated financial laws by under-reporting Ghosn’s pay by about 9 billion yen ($85 million) from 2011 through 2018.

Jamie Wareham, Kelly’s lawyer in the U.S., says a compensation agreement was never finalized. He believes the real motive was a “corporate coup” to oust Ghosn by others at Nissan who feared he might engineer a takeover by its French alliance partner, Renault.

“The whole thing is a fraud,” Wareham told The Associated Press by phone.

Ghosn could have been a star witness for the defense. But he is gone, having fled to Lebanon late last year, hidden in a box aboard a private jet.