Greg Kelly, a former aide to ex-Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn, has pleaded not guilty to a charge of financial misconduct as the trial against him began in Tokyo. Kelly's former boss, Ghosn, is now at large as an international fugitive after jumping bail and fleeing Japan for Lebanon last year.
Kelly is the only person facing trial in what has become known as the Ghosn saga.
Kelly entered a plea of not guilty Tuesday to the single charge he faces -- conspiring to under-report tens of millions of euros in pay that Ghosn was allegedly promised after his retirement.
"I deny the allegations. I was not involved in a criminal conspiracy," Kelly said.
He has consistently denied any wrongdoing, arguing -- as does Ghosn -- that no final agreement had been made on any post-retirement pay and therefore no disclosure was legally required.
Kelly says Ghosn is not guilty
Kelly, who turned 64 on Tuesday, entered the court dressed in a dark suit and red tie and wearing a surgical mask. He declined to speak to media gathered outside for the trial.
Ghosn's arrest in the Japanese capital in November 2018 on financial misconduct charges made headlines worldwide and kicked off an astonishing fall from grace for a man once hailed as a corporate saviour for rescuing Nissan from the brink of bankruptcy.
Kelly was arrested the same day, and has been free on bail in Tokyo since late December 2018.
The trial, which is expected to last 10 months, centres around one question fraught with technicalities: did Kelly and Nissan between 2010 and 2018 illegally conceal payments of around 9.2 billion yen (80 million euros at today's rates) promised to Ghosn on retirement?
Car company says Nissan is guilty
Nissan, which is on trial alongside Kelly, says yes, and pleaded guilty to the charge against it on Tuesday.
But Kelly, who faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted, has insisted on his innocence since day one.
"I didn't do anything wrong," he said in an interview in early September.
"Carlos Ghosn never got paid anything and he wasn't promised anything," Kelly insisted.
Nissan and Japanese prosecutors disagree, arguing they have evidence that these future payments were pledged to Ghosn, and therefore should have been disclosed in the firm's financial filings as required by Japanese law.