TOKYO • Nissan Motor will go bankrupt within two to three years, Carlos Ghosn told a defence attorney during more than 10 hours of interviews before the former auto executive skipped bail and left Japan.
The former chairman and chief executive officer of Nissan Motor and Renault made the prediction last year in a series of conversations about his arrest and prosecution, said Mr Nobuo Gohara, a former prosecutor and vocal critic of Japan's justice system.
Meanwhile, Mr Gohara said that a lieutenant to Ghosn who is facing charges in Japan for under-reporting his salary at Nissan Motor stands a very high chance of being acquitted, as would Ghosn had he remained in Japan to face trial.
Mr Gohara met Ghosn in Japan on a number of occasions late last year before the former Nissan chairman's dramatic escape to Lebanon last month.
Ghosn, whose escape to his childhood homeland breached his strict bail terms, has criticised the Japanese justice system and vowed to clear his name.
About the interviews with Ghosn, Mr Gohara said: "He told me that Nissan will probably go bankrupt within two to three years."
Mr Gohara held a news conference in Tokyo yesterday to discuss his conversations with the now-fugitive auto titan.
Ghosn did not offer detailed reasons for Nissan running into difficulties, according to the lawyer.
The Yokohama-based company is suffering from declining car sales in China and Europe, prompting it to slash profit and sales forecasts for the fiscal year ending March 31 and say it would eliminate 12,500 jobs globally.
Mr Gohara said he met and interviewed Ghosn five times during a two-month period, just before the former auto executive fled, for a book he planned to publish before the start of Ghosn's trial, which is no longer likely to happen.
Mr Gohara regularly comments on issues surrounding the Japanese justice system in his blog and TV appearances.
Ghosn has insisted he was the victim of a conspiracy to take him out because he was working on a merger of Nissan and alliance partner Renault. Mitsubishi Motors is the third member.
Mr Gohara said in Tokyo: "Nissan and prosecutors worked together to bring a criminal case against Ghosn."
Greg Kelly, a former executive in the Nissan CEO's office, was arrested the same day as Ghosn and is now likely to face charges of financial misconduct alone.
Kelly's chances of proving his innocence are good, Mr Gohara said, "because the same issues are at stake for both Kelly and Ghosn. Kelly's exoneration will mean Ghosn is also innocent".
Both Ghosn and Kelly face charges of financial misconduct over allegedly failing to report more than US$109 million (S$147 million) in salary, while Ghosn has also been charged with aggravated breach of trust for using company funds for personal purposes. Both deny wrongdoing.