November 22, 2018 / 12:39 PM / a month ago

Austere Japan detention quarters contrast with Ghosn's globe-trotting lifestyle

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japanese prosecutors have confirmed that Nissan’s arrested chairman, Carlos Ghosn, is being held in the spartan Tokyo Detention Center, its many rules and restrictions making for a stark contrast with his comfortable, globe-trotting lifestyle.

A typical room for a single-person is seen inside Tokyo Detention Center in Tokyo, Japan, in this photo taken by Kyodo June 7, 2018. Picture taken June 7, 2018. Mandatory credit Kyodo/via REUTERS

Ghosn is most probably being held in a small 4.8-sq-m (52-sq-ft) room with a toilet at one end, say experts familiar with the facility.

Many of its rooms have traditional straw tatami mats and a futon to sleep in. Others are Western-style with beds, said a Reuters reporter who has visited there.

Detainees are allowed to shower on set days, although not every day, said Hideto Ninomiya, a criminal defense lawyer who last visited three months ago.

Rooms lack heaters, for fear of detainees hurting themselves, and have no televisions or radios, he said. Suspects also do not have access to laptops and cell phones.

“It doesn’t need to be comfortable because it’s not a hotel,” said Yasuyuki Deguchi, a professor at Tokyo Future University. “But it’s neat, hygienic and tidy.”

Belts and neckties, as well as long-legged underwear, are prohibited, so as to foil suicide attempts, said Tsutomu Nakamura, a former prosecutor in Tokyo, the capital.

The centre “is pretty cold at this time of year,” internet entrepreneur and convicted fraudster Takafumi Horie told his followers on social network Twitter.

Ghosn was arrested on Monday and has not been formally charged. Japanese law permits the detention of suspects for up to 23 days before they are charged.

Nissan Motor Co., whose chief executive Ghosn was until 2017, accuses him of using company money for personal purposes and conspiring with board member Greg Kelly, who was also arrested, to under-report Ghosn’s income over five years from 2010.

Ghosn has not commented on the accusations and Reuters has not been able to reach him.

“EVERYONE TREATED THE SAME”

The detention center, a tower-like structure in the eastern part of Tokyo, is where the leader of the Aum Shinrikyo doomsday cult, which carried out a 1995 sarin gas attack on Tokyo subways, was executed by hanging this year.

Nakamura dismissed rumors that Ghosn was being held in a special VIP room, adding, “Everyone is treated in the same way, even a prime minister.”

The food on offer tends to be bento-type meals with little variety, Ninomiya added. Detainees are restricted from sleeping during the day, said the Reuters reporter who visited.

Detainees can have money deposited in their accounts to buy additional food and toiletries from the commissary. Family members can also send food items, books, magazines and clothing.

The facility accommodates many foreign detainees and is equipped to cope with different languages, Deguchi said.

“Being a foreigner does not mean you are at a disadvantage there,” he said. “People working there are used to foreign detainees.”

Visits by family and friends are limited to 15 minutes once a day. It was not immediately clear how much time detainees are allowed to meet lawyers.

A typical room for a single-person is seen inside Tokyo Detention Center in Tokyo, Japan, in this photo taken by Kyodo June 7, 2018. Picture taken June 7, 2018. Mandatory credit Kyodo/via REUTERS

When visiting detained clients, Ninomiya meets them in a room and speaks to them through a glass window. Some wear their own clothes and others wear gray a sweatshirt and sweatpants supplied by the facility, he said.

“They’re usually in shock and say it’s particularly hard to be in a private room because they can’t talk to anyone,” Ninomiya said.

The experience is particularly hard “for elites caught up in financial crimes,” he added. “They can’t stand it and it makes them want to confess.”

Reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka, Mari Saito and Tim Kelly; Writing by Malcolm Foster; Editing by Clarence Fernandez

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