Ex-Olympus head Woodford to meet Japan investigators

23rd November 2011, Comments 0 comments

The ousted chief of scandal-hit Olympus, Michael Woodford, will meet with Japanese investigators on Thursday over a cover-up of the company's massive investment losses dating back to the 1990s.

The Briton, who blew the whistle on the scandal at the camera and medical equipment maker, also plans to attend the company board meeting Friday to push for deeper investigation into the mismanagement involving billions of dollars.

"I do believe that Japanese authorities will and are taking it seriously, and that the whole truth will come out and not just part of the truth," Woodford told reporters after arriving at Narita airport Wednesday evening.

"Olympus' story has many tentacles. It's like an octopus. And for Olympus to move forward, all these tentacles should be examined and questioned," he said.

Woodford will meet with prosecutors, police and government regulators over Olympus' overpayments in a series of acquisition deals, which have also prompted investigations by British and US authorities.

He will also address the international press later in the day.

"I am not afraid of challenging my board members as to what has happened," Woodford -- who remains on Olympus' board -- told a press conference in London on Monday.

"I want the truth to come out. I am encouraged that so many people in Japan really understand and care for this issue," he said.

He is in Japan for the first time since Olympus abruptly stripped him of his title on October 14, only six months after appointing him its first ever non-Japanese president and two weeks after he was also named chief executive.

Olympus said at the time that Woodford was ousted because of cultural differences -- despite his 30-year career with the group.

But Woodford has contended that he was sacked because he questioned the acquisitions and enormous fees to little-known consultants based in the Cayman Islands, and because of his calls to the then chairman to resign.

Olympus originally defended its past deals, only to eventually admit that it funnelled funds through the corporate purchases to cover up losses it made on bad investments during the 1990s.

Local media have reported that the losses may total more than 100 billion yen ($1.3 billion). But the company has yet to disclose details, citing a probe by an outside panel commissioned by its board.

Britain's Serious Fraud Office has also launched an investigation, along with those under way by Japanese and other international agencies amid media speculation that Yakuza crime syndicates may be involved in the scandal.

After his meetings in Japan, Woodford will travel to the United States for talks with US authorities investigating Olympus.

Olympus' actions have prompted a massive sell-off of its shares, which have lost some 75 percent of its value since Woodford was demoted.

Its stock has been placed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange's watch list for possible delisting.

The company will be removed from the index if the company fails to report by December 14 -- a move that would effectively wipe out the value of its shares and could trigger investor lawsuits.

Major shareholders and retired employees of Olympus have called for Woodford's reinstatement.

© 2011 AFP

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