Olympus ex-presidents approved loss cover-up: panel

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The committee probing a massive cover-up of losses at Japan's Olympus said Tuesday two former company presidents approved the long-running scheme, and that the "core of its top management was rotten".

The panel of lawyers and an accountant chosen by Olympus named Tsuyoshi Kikukawa and his predecessor Masatoshi Kishimoto as having backed the plan to hide 134.9 billion yen ($1.73 billion) in losses tied to speculative investments.

Kikukawa quit the company last month as the scandal engulfed the camera and medical equipment maker, chopping about 80 percent off the value of its shares at one stage.

The six-member panel also identified former vice president Hisashi Mori and former internal auditor Hideo Yamada as central figures behind the cover-up.

"This is an incident carried out secretly by some executives under the leadership of top management," it said.

"The core of (Olympus) management was rotten and those around them were also contaminated."

The panel also heaped blamed on Olympus' board of directors, saying that "although they were not given enough information, (the board) did not fulfil its supervisory responsibility as the central force of corporate governance."

In a statement following the report's release Tuesday, Olympus said that it would correct its earnings for an unspecified number of years and was still aiming to meet a December 14 deadline to release its overdue accounts.

"We deeply apologise again for causing tremendous nuisance and worries to shareholders, investors and customers," it said in a statement Tuesday.

Olympus could be delisted from the Tokyo Stock Exchange if it misses the looming deadline.

The volatile shares closed 9.07 percent higher Tuesday at 1,190 yen, about half their value before Olympus' whistleblowing former chief executive Michael Woodford went public with the cover-up allegations in October.

The panel's report was released after markets closed.

© 2011 AFP

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