Olympus, former executives plead guilty in fraud trial

Tue Sep 25, 2012 5:01am EDT
 
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By Antoni Slodkowski

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japanese camera and medical equipment maker Olympus Corp and three of its former executives pleaded guilty on Tuesday over charges related to a $1.7 billion accounting cover-up in one of Japan's biggest corporate scandals.

The scandal was exposed last October by chief executive Michael Woodford, who was sacked by the Olympus board after querying dubious deals later found to have been used to conceal the losses.

Revelations of the huge accounting fraud revived calls for more outside scrutiny of its boardrooms but have failed to trigger sweeping corporate governance reforms similar to those introduced a decade ago in the wake of U.S. scandals such as at Enron.

"The full responsibility lies with me and I feel deeply sorry for causing trouble to our business partners, shareholders and the wider public," ex-chairman Tsuyoshi Kikukawa told the Tokyo district court at the start of the trial nearly a year after the cover-up first came to light.

"I take full responsibility for what happened."

Prosecutors charged Kikukawa, former executive vice-president Hisashi Mori and former auditor Hideo Yamada with inflating the company's net worth in financial statements for five fiscal years to March 2011.

The three former executives had been identified by an investigative panel, commissioned by Olympus, as the main suspects in the fraud seeking to delay the reckoning from risky investments made in the late-1980s bubble economy.

The indictment did not specify what penalties the prosecutors would seek, but lawyers have said the former executives could face up to 10 years in jail and fines of up to 10 million yen ($128,400). The company could be fined more than 100 million yen, according to the Japanese media.   Continued...

 
The Olympus logo on its camera is seen in this illustrative photograph taken in Tokyo November 24, 2011. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon