Ex-Olympus chief and two executives quit board

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Olympus's ex-chairman and two other directors have quit the firm's board, the company said, in the wake of a loss cover-up scandal unveiled since the sacking of the firm's British chief executive.

Tsuyoshi Kikukawa resigned from the firm's board ahead of a key company meeting Friday, it said in a statement late Thursday, adding that its disgraced former executive vice president and corporate auditor also formally stepped down as company directors.

Kikukawa resigned as chairman and president in October while Hisashi Mori was sacked as executive vice president earlier this month and auditor Hideo Yamada "showed his intention to resign", the company said.

The trio had remained as board members but have now left the company.

They have been accused of hiding investment losses that may total more than 100 billion yen ($1.3 billion) dating back to the 1990s.

"The company decided to accept their resignations as we have judged there will be no problem in getting their cooperation for the investigation," Olympus said, referring to an ongoing probe of the firm's accounting.

"The three people have cooperated sincerely on the investigation since the problem came to light and they said they would do so in the future," it added.

On Thursday, the firm's current president, Shuichi Takayama, said the scandal-hit company's management team was prepared to step down when Olympus was back on the road to recovery.

An independent committee of inquiry has been set up to scrutinise past transactions and company finances to uncover the wrongdoing that for years helped conceal huge investment losses.

Olympus has admitted that it covered up those losses with fees for acquisitions and consultants, following weeks of pressure after former company chief Michael Woodford blew the whistle on payments made in four deals.

The camera and medical equipment maker abruptly stripped the Briton 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.

Woodford has contended that he was sacked because he questioned the acquisitions and enormous fees paid to little-known consultants based in the Cayman Islands.

© 2011 AFP

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