Brazilian consul: Arrested Ghosn is healthy, wants thrillers

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TOKYO (AP) – 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.

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

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

Ghosn, who headed the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Motors auto alliance, was arrested last month on suspicion he underreported his income by $44 million over five years.

Ghosn holds French, Lebanese and Brazilian citizenship. Representatives of those nations, as well as attorneys, can visit suspects in detention in Japan.

“Given his position, he has been an icon not only here but all over the world,” Mendonca said, noting Brazilians were proud of Ghosn.

“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.

He has relayed Ghosn’s verbal messages to his family in Brazil through a sister, and has relayed the family’s messages back, Mendonca said, while declining to disclose details.

Ghosn and he talk in Portuguese, although separated by a glass barrier, standard for Japanese detention, and Ghosn appeared to like talking in Portuguese, he added.

Consul officials have visited Ghosn four times in the last two weeks, he said, bringing history and philosophy books and fruit. But Ghosn asked for thriller books for his enjoyment, which Mendonca said he would bring on the next visit. He had not yet decided which ones.

Although Japanese detention cells are not heated, Mendonca quoted Ghosn as telling 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.'”

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

Since being sent in by Renault SA of France to turn around a near-bankrupt Nissan Motor Co. two decades ago, Ghosn has been under scrutiny for his stellar pay. Japanese executives tend to get paid far less but some have gotten deferred pay without legal problems.

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

Nissan, which makes the March subcompact, Leaf electric car and Infiniti luxury models, says an internal investigation found Ghosn hid his pay and abused company funds and assets for personal gain. The company has ousted Ghosn as chairman, and a replacement has not yet been picked.

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

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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)
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