Japan not safe for meeting with panel: ex-Olympus CEO

Wed Nov 2, 2011 7:21am EDT
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By Sumio Ito and Reiji Murai

TOKYO (Reuters) - The ex-CEO of Japan's Olympus Corp said on Wednesday he wanted to meet investigators appointed to probe a scandal engulfing the firm, but added it would not be safe for him to travel to Japan.

Briton Michael Woodford, whose sacking and revelations about irregular deals and payments exposed the scandal, said he would meet the company-appointed panel of investigators in London, New York or Singapore.

"I think there are security issues in relation to Japan," Woodford told Reuters in a phone interview from Britain. "They only have to get on a plane."

Woodford did not explain his concerns but the scandal has raised fears -- denied by Olympus -- that the deals could be linked to "anti-social forces", a euphemism in Japan for organized crime.

Olympus has been under intense pressure to explain deals that have rattled confidence in the 92-year-old company and wiped out half its market value.

The company has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing. Woodford raised alarm bells over the deals publicly after he was sacked on October 14 just two weeks into the job of CEO.

This week the endoscope and camera maker set up a panel of six men to investigate the deals, which include the world's most generous advisory fee of $687 million, mostly paid to an obscure Cayman Islands firm.

In a sign of concern the scandal may hurt investor confidence in Japan, the ruling Democratic Party plans to set up its own panel to debate improving corporate governance and disclosure, a senior party official said on Wednesday.   Continued...

<p>Former CEO of Olympus, Michael Woodford poses for a photograph in central London October 25, 2011. REUTERS/Toby Melville</p>