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Brazilian consul: Arrested Ghosn is healthy, wants thrillers

December 5, 2018
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Consulate General of Brazil in Tokyo Joao de Mendonca Lima Neto speaks during an interview with the Associated Press in Tokyo, Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2018. Former Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn, arrested in Japan on suspicion of underreporting his income, is holding up well while in detention and asked for thriller books, according to the Brazilian consul general, one of the few allowed to visit. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara)

TOKYO (AP) — The former Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn, who was arrested in Japan on suspicion of underreporting his income, seems prepared to fight out his case and has asked for thriller books, according to the Brazilian consul general.

Joao de Mendonca Lima Neto, one of the few visitors Ghosn has been allowed to see under Japan’s stringent rules, said Ghosn was healthy and holding up well.

“My impression is that he is a strong man in the sense that he will fight this out properly. He doesn’t look worried,” Mendonca told The Associated Press on Wednesday at Brazil’s consulate in Tokyo. “I admire him for his fortitude.”

Mendonca declined comment on the specifics of the allegations against Ghosn, saying his job was about helping Brazilian citizens with their problems.

He said he has conveyed Ghosn’s verbal messages to his family and has relayed the family’s messages back. He declined to disclose details.

Ghosn, who headed the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Motors auto alliance, was arrested last month on suspicion he underreported his income by millions of dollars for years at a time.

Born in Brazil, Ghosn holds French, Lebanese and Brazilian citizenships. Only representatives of a suspect’s home country and attorneys can visit suspects in detention in Japan.

Consular officials have visited Ghosn four times in the last two weeks, Mendonca said. They brought history and philosophy books and fruit, but Ghosn asked for thriller books to pass the time.

Mendonca said he speaks with Ghosn in Portuguese through a glass barrier.

Although Japanese detention cells are not heated and the weather can be chilly, Mendonca said Ghosn told him he was warm. He was wearing a blue zipped-up top, he recalled.

“Dr. Ghosn has always said that he is well and he is well treated, given the circumstances,” he said. “He answers normally, ‘I’m fine.’”

Japanese media, without identifying sources, have reported prosecutors will detain Ghosn on additional allegations beyond Dec. 10, when the period of detention allowed on the first set of allegations against him will run out. Prosecutors have refused to comment except in weekly meetings, when they confirm some basic facts. Ghosn has not been charged.

Since he was sent by Renault SA of France to turn around a near-bankrupt Nissan Motor Co. two decades ago, Ghosn’s star-level pay has drawn attention since executives in Japan tend to be paid far less than their international counterparts.

At the center of the allegations, according to Japanese media reports, is Ghosn’s deferred income, promised as money, stocks and other items for a later date, including after retirement.

Nissan, which makes the March subcompact, Leaf electric car and Infiniti luxury models, says an internal investigation found Ghosn hid his pay and misused company funds and assets for personal gain. The company has ousted Ghosn as chairman but has yet to pick a replacement.

Brazilians are proud of Ghosn, Mendonca said.

“We also have a position of wait and see. What you read in the press is not what he is saying. We are just waiting for the result, and hopefully the best result,” he said. “Given his position, he has been an icon not only here but all over the world.”

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Yuri Kageyama is on Twitter at https://twitter.com/yurikageyama

On Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/yurikageyama/?hl=en

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