Olympus HQ raided in cover-up inquiry

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Japanese prosecutors have raided the headquarters of Olympus, during an investigation into the cover-up of massive losses at the camera and medical equipment maker.

A trail of dark-suited officials were shown marching solemnly into the central Tokyo office building yesterday in the raid, which was also broadcast on national television.

Olympus said it would co-operate fully with the investigation by prosecutors, police and financial authorities.

“We apologise deeply again for the great troubles and worries we have caused our shareholders, investors, customers and others,” it said in a statement.

NHK TV said the suburban home of former president Tsuyoshi Kikukawa, suspected of helping to orchestrate the cover-up, was also raided.

The deception at Olympus dates back to the 1990s and involved an elaborate scheme to hide 117.7 billion yen (£960m) in investment losses. It came to light only in October when the then president, Briton Michael Woodford, blew the whistle on what he thought was strange and excessive spending.

Mr Woodford had been a rare foreigner to head a major Japanese company but was sacked after he confronted the company’s board of directors with his doubts.

He had questioned exorbitant fees for advice on the acquisition of British medical equipment maker Gyrus Group and other expensive acquisitions in 2008.

Mr Woodford is demanding the resignation of the entire board, including president Shuichi Takayama, who replaced him, and initially declared in a news conference that the spending was legitimate.

The scandal has raised serious questions about corporate governance in Japan, and whether major companies are complying adequately with global standards.

The battle over who will lead the firm and its 40,000 employees could come to a head at the next shareholders’ meeting. A date has not been set.