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Carlos Ghosn Skipped Bail. This Man Was Left Behind.

Every weekday morning, Greg Kelly, the former Nissan executive accused of helping Carlos Ghosn hide his compensation from the Japanese authorities, makes his way to his lawyer’s office in Tokyo to chip away at a monumental task: reviewing close to one billion pages of documents.

His wife, Donna Lynn Kelly, whom everyone calls Dee, goes off to Japanese class.

That’s the life of the two Americans in Japan as they await Mr. Kelly’s trial, according to a person who knows Mr. Kelly and spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss personal matters. The timing of the trial, once set to begin in April, is now uncertain after Mr. Ghosn’s sudden flight to Lebanon two weeks ago. A pretrial hearing next Thursday may shed more light.

Mr. Kelly, whose passport was taken away when he was arrested in November 2018, is preparing to defend himself against criminal charges that, as Mr. Ghosn’s chief of staff and the man nominally in charge of Nissan’s internal auditing, he helped Mr. Ghosn conceal how much he was being paid. The prosecutors in Japan declined to comment on Mr. Kelly’s case.

Mr. Kelly says he is innocent and just wants to go home to Tennessee. At 63, he suffers from a spinal condition that has left him with weakness in his extremities and an uncertain gait that sometimes causes him to trip and fall. He has an infant grandson in Seattle he has never met.

On Jan. 8, he watched his former boss, appearing fit and pugnacious in Beirut, address a room packed with journalists. Over nearly three hours, Mr. Ghosn proclaimed his innocence in four languages. He mentioned Mr. Kelly twice.

“Greg Kelly, an honorable man, husband and father, who was brutally taken from his family,” Mr. Ghosn said. “My plight has captured headlines,” he said. “You cannot forget Greg’s ordeal.”

In Beirut, Mr. Ghosn has a pink mansion in an upscale part of town. The Kellys live in an apartment, small but clean, with a microwave but no stove. Ms. Kelly can visit family in the United States, but she spends most of her time with her husband in Tokyo, the person said. Her visa depends on her studying Japanese, so she spends several hours a day in class. If she doesn’t score high enough on the exams, she can be sent home.

While Mr. Ghosn used a corporate jet to visit homes in Brazil, Beirut, Paris and Tokyo before the 2018 arrests, Mr. Kelly led a more pedestrian life as a Nissan executive, according to two people who know him.

A lawyer, Mr. Kelly joined Nissan in 1988, enticed by a recruiter who described “an extremely interesting Japanese company in Tennessee. I think it would a good fit for you,” he recalled last year in an interview with the monthly magazine Bungei Shunju.

He and his wife raised a family — two sons — in Brentwood, Tenn., a Nashville suburb near Nissan’s North American headquarters, and Ms. Kelly worked as an accountant. While the children were young, the Kellys were members of the Church of the Good Shepherd, a local Episcopalian congregation, with Dee and their son Mike writing and directing Christmas pageants.

In 2008, their lives changed. Mr. Kelly’s job, as senior executive in Nissan’s human resources department, took him to Japan, and Ms. Kelly came with him. He became a senior vice president and then, in 2012, joined Nissan’s board — its first American board member — while working for Mr. Ghosn, the chairman, as the company’s top legal officer.

He was considered a close associate of the chairman, a reliable vote to help Mr. Ghosn carry out his plans for an alliance of Nissan and Renault, the French automaker Mr. Ghosn also headed. But Mr. Kelly has rejected that description, pointing out that he was not on the board’s top decision-making body, the executive committee. “Considering this, why was I called Ghosn’s right-hand man?” he told Bungei Shunju.

The Kellys enjoyed Japan — “Greg and I often discussed the possibility of living in Japan part-time in our retirement,” Ms. Kelly later said — but their lives remained rooted in the United States.

In 2008, they bought a vacation house in Sanibel Island, Fla., in a neighborhood crammed with a network of canals leading to the Gulf of Mexico, according to property documents. They joined a sailing club that organized potlucks at picnic huts on the beach and luncheons at local seafood restaurants.

“You’re dealing with an all-American guy, not extravagant, no racehorses, nothing,” said the second person who knows Mr. Kelly. “Very ordinary guy, and charming, very American in the positive sense of the word.”

Mr. Kelly retired to Tennessee in 2015 but kept his board seat. In November 2018, Mr. Kelly recalled in the interview with Bungei Shunju, a senior executive urged him to attend a board meeting in Japan. Mr. Kelly, facing spinal surgery within two weeks at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, said he would prefer to attend via video conference. The official insisted that he come in person, that the company would send a plane to pick him up and that he would be home within three days, in time for Thanksgiving.

Minutes after landing in Tokyo, he was arrested. He spent the next 34 days in a cell at Tokyo Detention House, sleeping on a futon on the floor.

Before he was released on bail on Christmas Day in 2018, Ms. Kelly recorded a video and distributed it news organizations, begging for her husband to be freed or at least to be allowed to consult with a Japanese doctor she had identified as one of the country’s leading experts on Mr. Kelly’s condition. He would eventually undergo surgery in Tokyo for spinal stenosis, but it did not relieve his symptoms.

In September, the United States Securities and Exchange Commission accused Mr. Kelly, along with Mr. Ghosn and Nissan, of breaking American disclosure laws. Mr. Kelly agreed to pay $100,000 and submit to a five-year ban on serving as a senior executive of a public company to settle the charges without admitting or denying guilt.

Prosecutors have barred his lawyers from putting the voluminous documents in his case online and making them searchable, which means that only Mr. Kelly’s Japanese defense team, or others who come to their Tokyo offices, can see them.

Mr. Kelly has insisted on helping to review the mountain of documents prosecutors say they will use to make their case. He spends hours each day at his lawyer’s office.

“Greg has been wrongly accused as part of a power grab by several Nissan executives,” Ms. Kelly said in the video. “The truth of this will come out.”

In the 2019 magazine interview, Mr. Kelly was defiant about his and Mr. Ghosn’s innocence, contending that Hiroto Saikawa, who was then Nissan’s chief executive, approved the compensation plans that led to the arrests. “How come Ghosn and I were suddenly arrested without one instance of being asked to explain and no discussions or meeting on the subject,” he said.

But then Mr. Kelly added, “I am very proud to have worked for this amazing company, Nissan, for over 30 years. It has been an honor.”

Liz Alderman and Makiko Inoue contributed reporting.


NYT > Business

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Carlos Ghosn’s Escape Began With a Ride on a Public Train

TOKYO — The first leg of Carlos Ghosn’s overnight trek from his Tokyo home to Beirut, before he reportedly climbed into a box to evade airport security, involved something much more prosaic: He got aboard an Osaka-bound bullet train, several Japanese media sources reported Monday.

Taking the trip on a public train would be another embarrassment for Japanese authorities, who on Monday promised to tighten airport baggage inspections and the rules governing the release of criminal suspects on bail.

It’s unclear if Mr. Ghosn, who is one of the most recognizable public figures in Japan, hid his appearance while on the bullet train, which has a maximum speed of about 177 miles per hour. The revelations came as authorities continued to investigate how the former auto executive eluded the authorities and flew to Lebanon last week.

Mr. Ghosn, who is facing charges of financial wrongdoing in Japan, fled to Beirut, where he has a home and faces no extradition to Japan.

Details of his trip, which began on Sunday, Dec. 29, are beginning to come to light. Mr. Ghosn left his home in central Tokyo by himself around 2:30 p.m. that Sunday, and walked about 900 yards to a hotel, where he met two men, according to NHK, which cited sources in the city prosecutor’s office and the Tokyo police.

The three then went to Tokyo’s Shinagawa railroad station, a major hub, and a little after 4:30 p.m. boarded a Shinkansen, or high-speed bullet train, for Osaka, about 340 miles away, the report said. In Osaka, they entered a hotel near the Kansai airport at about 8 p.m. A couple of hours later, the two men left the hotel with two large boxes; Mr. Ghosn was not in sight, the NHK report said. They boarded a corporate jet with the boxes, and flew to Istanbul.

Previous media reports have said that Mr. Ghosn evaded airport security measures by hiding in a box that was loaded on the plane.

From Istanbul, Mr. Ghosn reportedly got on a smaller plane, and arrived in Beirut later Monday.

At a news conference on Monday, Masako Mori, Japan’s justice minister, said the authorities were taking steps to bolster the scanning of luggage, though she declined to disclose details.

“Now, measures have been taken so that similar acts can’t be committed,” she said of the escape of Mr. Ghosn, who was on bail. Though her ministry is not responsible for baggage inspection, she said, different agencies are working to tighten control.

Ms. Mori also said the government would accelerate an existing review of how bail works in the country, including whether to require defendants to wear tracking wrist or ankle bracelets. Mr. Ghosn offered to wear one when he sought bail, but the court ultimately granted it without that requirement.

“We have been reviewing the current system,” Ms. Mori said. “We would like to swiftly advance the discussions on the matter, taking into account the recent escaping cases and the various opinions we have received.”

In leaving Japan, Mr. Ghosn forfeited 1.5 billion yen in bail, or about $13.9 million.

Mr. Ghosn, the former chief of the Nissan-Renault auto alliance, has long denied the allegations of financial wrongdoing and insisted he had been set up by Nissan executives who were worried that he would further merge the operations of the Japanese automaker and Renault of France.

After he vanished from Tokyo last week, he appeared in Lebanon, saying in a statement that he had been “held hostage by a rigged Japanese justice system.”

Japanese officials on Sunday defended the country’s justice system as fair and open, with plenty of opportunities for Mr. Ghosn to defend himself.

Ms. Mori continued the defense on Monday.

“We acknowledge that there are various criticisms of Japan’s criminal justice procedures, but every country has a different criminal justice system,” she said, adding, “It isn’t appropriate to simply focus on one part of the system when comparing it to other countries.”

The details of Mr. Ghosn’s escape are still emerging.

In Japan, local media outlets have reported that surveillance cameras showed him leaving his Tokyo rental home by himself on Dec. 29. According to media reports in Turkey, he boarded a private jet in Osaka and flew to Istanbul, then took a second plane to Beirut.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday, citing an anonymous source, that Mr. Ghosn was smuggled through Kansai International Airport in a type of box often used for concert equipment. It said the terminal for private jets at that airport was essentially empty, and that oversize luggage could not fit in the airport’s scanners.

A customs official at the airport, Akira Taniguchi, said that screening of luggage was done in two stages. In the first, a private security company using X-ray and other equipment checks whether there are items that are not allowed on board, likes guns or knives.

In the second stage, customs officials check whether the bags contain items that are not permitted to be brought in or taken out of Japan, like drugs and some foods. They use X-ray machines, metal detectors, drug detectors and dogs for that step.

Asked if Mr. Ghosn had managed to elude these measures, Mr. Taniguchi said, “We cannot comment on this.”

Mr. Ghosn was accompanied out of Japan by an American security consultant named Michael Taylor, a former Green Beret, The New York Times reported on Friday, citing a person familiar with the matter.

Mr. Taylor and another American were the only people listed as passengers on a manifest for the flight that carried Mr. Ghosn from Japan to Turkey, Turkish news outlets have reported.

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Carlos Ghosn’s Escape: A Lawyer in Beirut, a French Passport and a Lot of Mystery

TOKYO — By the time most of Japan had woken up on Tuesday, he was gone. One of the country’s most famous criminal suspects had slipped past the cameras trained on his house, past the police and border guards and the Japanese citizens who for the past year have followed his every move.

Carlos Ghosn, the deposed chief of the Nissan and Renault auto empire facing charges of financial wrongdoing, had fled to Lebanon, and no one in Japan — not the authorities, the media or even the auto executive’s own lawyer — could explain how it had happened.

“I want to ask him, ‘How could you do this to us?’” Mr. Ghosn’s lawyer in Tokyo, Junichiro Hironaka, told a crush of 40 reporters outside his office on Tuesday.

It was a cinematic escape, carried out just before New Years Day, Japan’s most important holiday, when government agencies and most businesses close for as long as a week.

The escape appeared to have been planned in Lebanon. A lawyer for Mr. Ghosn in Beirut played a lead role putting the plan together and acted as the go-between with the Lebanese government, one person familiar with the matter said.

An official in Beirut said Mr. Ghosn had entered the country using a French passport, while at least one Lebanese outlet reported, without offering proof, that the former Nissan chairman had been spirited out inside a box meant for musical equipment.

He chose refuge in Lebanon, where he grew up and has been treated as a folk hero since his 2018 arrest in Japan. A Lebanese newspaper reported that Mr. Ghosn had arrived in Beirut on a private plane from Turkey. After landing there, he released a statement assailing the “rigged Japanese justice system where guilt is presumed, discrimination is rampant, and basic human rights are denied.”

In the statement, he said he was ready to tell his story to the media “starting next week.” A public relations professional has been dispatched from the United States to Beirut to help organize a press conference, but the plans have divided those close to Mr. Ghosn, with some believing he should not speak publicly, the person familiar with the matter said.

Government officials in Japan were still trying to piece together the facts of the escape, as the aggressive local media scrambled for clues. Lebanon has no extradition treaty with Japan. Some politicians in Japan wondered whether shadowy figures or even a foreign government had been involved in his escape.

On Twitter, Masahisa Sato, a member of the upper house of Japan’s Parliament and a former top Foreign Ministry official, asked whether Mr. Ghosn “had the support of some country” in his departure.

“It’s a huge problem that his illegal escape from Japan was allowed so easily,” he wrote.

A former governor of Tokyo, Yoichi Masuzoe, accused the Lebanese Embassy of helping to smuggle Mr. Ghosn out.

“It’s a diplomat’s work to exfiltrate Lebanon’s national hero,” he wrote, providing no evidence. Calls to the Lebanese Embassy went unanswered.

Apparently caught flat footed, Japanese prosecutors rushed to ask a Tokyo court to rescind Mr. Ghosn’s bail, according to the national broadcaster NHK, possibly leaving him to forfeit the $9 million that he had paid for the privilege of living outside jail while he awaited trial.

Mr. Ghosn had turned over his passports to his lawyer, as a court had ordered, while he prepared for trial living in an elegant neighborhood in central Tokyo.

His lawyer, too, seemed dumbfounded by the Houdini-like disappearance. Addressing the reporters outside his Tokyo office, Mr. Hironaka said Mr. Ghosn’s departure was “totally unexpected.”

There had been no sign that Mr. Ghosn was preparing to flee, Mr. Hironaka said. To the contrary, he added, everything suggested that Mr. Ghosn had been preparing to defend himself in court.

Mr. Ghosn’s bail conditions limited his phone use, and he spent most of his days in his lawyer’s office, the only place he was allowed to use the internet. For months, he had been commuting from his home to meet with his lawyers and prepare for his trial.

All the while, a court-ordered camera monitored his doorway, recording his comings and goings. Whenever he went out, he suspected that the authorities and private investigators from Nissan followed him around the city, according to people familiar with the matter.

Mr. Ghosn spoke with his wife, Carole, for about an hour on Dec. 24, Mr. Hironaka said. Prosecutors had asked a judge to forbid the couple to contact each other over concerns that they might conspire to tamper with evidence or witnesses. The court had kept the couple from communicating for months, Mr. Hironaka said, and they had spoken only twice since Mr. Ghosn was rearrested in April.

Nevertheless, Mr. Ghosn stayed in touch with his family. His daughter Maya visited him in Tokyo, according to people familiar with his movements. And his outings with his children would occasionally be reported by the Japanese press or pop up on social media, where commentators speculated about his welfare.

Mr. Hironaka said the legal team spent Christmas Day in court discussing preparations for Mr. Ghosn’s trial, which was expected to take place sometime in 2020.

The team had planned to regroup on Jan. 7 for the first strategy session of the new year.

All three of Mr. Ghosn’s passports were in his lawyers’ possession, Mr. Hironaka said. It was one of the conditions of his bail, which his lawyers had won only after repeated, hard-fought attempts to convince the court that their client, with all of his wealth and power, was not a flight risk.

“He left his things here,” Mr. Hironaka told reporters. “It would have been difficult for him to do this without the assistance of some large organization.”

Mr. Ghosn’s defense team had repeatedly spoken out about what it described as a “hostage justice” system, complaining that Japanese courts and prosecutors had put him at an almost impossible disadvantage as he sought to defend himself.

“I wanted to prove he was innocent,” Mr. Hironaka said on Tuesday. “But when I saw his statement in the press, I thought, ‘He doesn’t trust Japan’s courts.’”

The Japanese media rushed for clues as well, but news outlets were hampered by skeleton staffs and closed government offices ahead of New Year’s Day. NHK reported that border control officials in Japan and Lebanon had no record of Mr. Ghosn’s leaving the country, speculating that he may have used a fake passport and an assumed name.

But in Lebanon, the minister for presidential affairs, Salim Jreissati, said late Tuesday that Mr. Ghosn had “entered the country legally using his French passport and Lebanese ID.”

Mr. Jreissati said the Lebanese government had not been notified in advance of his arrival, adding, “We were all surprised.”

“The government has nothing to do with his decision to come,” he said. “We don’t know the circumstances of his arrival.”

In France, a deputy minister for economy and finance, Agnès Pannier-Runacher, said she had learned about Mr. Ghosn’s flight from news reports. “We have to understand what happened,” she said on France Inter radio.

Mr. Ghosn is not above the law, she said, and “if a foreign citizen fled the French justice system, we would be very angry.” But she noted that, as a French citizen, he could use the country’s consular services.

A group of children may have been among the last people to see him before he left Japan, according to a report in The Asahi Shimbun. It described the possible sighting on Friday morning in much the way one would an appearance by Bigfoot or the Loch Ness monster.

“His eyebrows stand out,” the 12-year-old girl told a reporter combing the streets near Mr. Ghosn’s home for clues about his disappearance.

“Everyone was saying to each other, ‘Isn’t that Ghosn?’”

Ben Dooley reported from Tokyo, and Michael Corkery from New York. Reporting was contributed by Makiko Inoue and Eimi Yamamitsu from Tokyo, Elian Peltier from London, Hwaida Saad from Beirut, and Amy Chozick from New York.