Former Nissan executive Greg Kelly has denied charges he conspired with former boss Carlos Ghosn to hide income in his first hearing at the Tokyo District Court.
Kelly, who has been on bail in Japan since his release from jail in 2018, said: “I deny the allegations that have been made by prosecutors. I was not involved in a criminal conspiracy.”
Kelly, who faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted, delivered his plea without co-accused Carlos Ghosn Japan for Lebanon at the end of last year.
He was smuggled out of the country in a musical instrument case on a flight to Turkey and on to Lebanon, where he has a house.
Lebanon does not have an extradition treaty with Japan.
Japanese prosecutors arrested Kelly, a US national, and Carlos Ghosn two years ago after being summoned to a meeting called by the Nissan board in Japan.
The former Nissan boss was accused of accepting approximately 9.3bn yen (£65m) in deferred payments after he left the company. Kelly is accused of helping to arrange the payments. Both denied the charges and Kelly said he was working with others at Nissan to find a “lawful” way to pay Ghosn.
“The evidence will show that I did not break the law,” Kelly said. “Carlos Ghosn never got paid anything and he wasn’t promised anything.”
Both men have consistently denied the allegations and Ghosn has portrayed himself as a victim of “backstabbing” colleagues and Japan’s “hostage justice” system.
In April last year Ghosn said of Nissan: “This is a conspiracy. This is not about specific events, or greed or dictatorship. This is about a plot. This is about conspiracy. This is about backstabbing.”
The Tokyo court has scheduled 76 hearings until July next year, with a ruling expected in the autumn.