Ex-Olympus Chief Slams Company Coverup Probe

LONDON, Nov. 21 (Kyodo) — The dismissed former Olympus Corp. president, Michael Woodford, on Monday criticized a third-party panel set up by the company to probe its coverup of past securities investment losses, after the panel denied reports of organized crime's involvement in the scandal.

Woodford, who was interviewed earlier in the day by a panel member in London, said that it is far too early to come to any conclusions until a thorough, forensic investigation is carried out and that the body's "credibility" had been "diminished" by the denial.

The panel said earlier Monday in a statement that "no facts have been uncovered" in relation to claims that organized crime syndicates had been involved in and profited from some of Olympus' previous acquisitions.

"The eyes of the world are looking at this issue and for a so-called independent panel to issue a statement at this time on whether antisocial forces are involved or not is beyond me and concerning," Woodford, also the firm's former chief executive officer, said at a press conference.

He questioned whether the panel had issued the statement at the request of Olympus in an attempt at media management.

The New York Times reported in its online edition Thursday that Japanese officials have said at least $4.9 billion (376 billion yen) remains unaccounted for in connection with the Olympus scandal and that the possibility more than 100 billion yen was directed to companies with links to organized crime is being investigated.

While refusing to divulge any evidence he has passed on to the various regulatory authorities, Woodford said he believes the allegations will have come from "reliable sources."

He said that Olympus has so far failed to say what the company's losses were in relation to the purchase of the companies currently in the spotlight, and that questions still remain over who advised it on the deals and the level of their fees.

Woodford will arrive in Japan on Wednesday where he plans to meet police and financial regulators before attending an Olympus board meeting in Tokyo on Friday. The following week will see him travel to the United States where similar meetings have been arranged.

He said, "I am not afraid of challenging my board members as to what has happened. I'm not going to be quiet. I want the truth to come out."

"I'm encouraged that so many people in Japan care for this issue. It will be an interesting few days in Tokyo."

He added he is satisfied that the Japanese police will give him appropriate protection given his previous concerns over his personal safety.

Woodford says the probe must not end merely with a few former senior executives at Olympus being prosecuted and the company being fined for the scandal.

"We have to follow the detail of all the financial transactions. This issue has to be cleansed in a complete way to satisfy the world which is looking on," he said.

He repeated his desire to return to his former senior role at Olympus if the shareholders want him back.

"I have said that my concern is for the 44,000 people who work for Olympus. I don't want to leave them in this position. I believe that if this is investigated thoroughly then Olympus can rebuild," he said.

Woodford was sacked last month from his posts after calling into question the company's acquisition in 2008 of British medical equipment maker Gyrus Group Plc, for which Olympus paid $687 million in advisory fees, equivalent to nearly a third of the 210 billion yen purchase price.

The panel, which consists of five lawyers and a certified public accountant picked by Olympus, has been looking into the camera and medical equipment maker's acquisitions of Gyrus and three Japanese firms which have been used to clear its latent losses. It is set to present a final report in early December.