Los Angeles (Reuters) - A former Singapore banker accused of helping “liquidate” hundreds of millions of dollars in an accounting fraud at Japan’s Olympus Corp (7733.T) was ordered to face charges in New York after he was arrested in Los Angeles on Thursday.
Chan Ming Fon, a one-time bank vice president, was ordered held without bail by U.S. District Judge Patrick J. Walsh and transported to New York.
Chan, who resides in Singapore and is a citizen of Taiwan, is the latest executive and first from outside Japan to be indicted in the $1.7 billion accounting cover-up at the camera and medical equipment maker.
“My client is looking forward to going to New York to address the charges as quickly as possible,” said his attorney, David Grable, in the Los Angeles office of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan.
Chan is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years.
“The defendant had a direct role in the secret liquidation of hundreds of millions of dollars of Olympus investments. He then waged a six-year campaign to conceal that misdeed by lying, certifying to auditors that the investments still existed years after liquidation,” said FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge George Venizelos.
The decade-long accounting fraud at Olympus, a 93-year-old maker of medical equipment, was exposed last October by then-Chief Executive Michael Woodford, who was fired after he questioned dubious deals that were later found to have been used to hide losses.
Three former Olympus executives - Chairman Tsuyoshi Kikukawa, Executive Vice President Hisashi Mori and auditor Hideo Yamada - pleaded guilty in September to charges that they inflated the company’s net worth in financial statements for five fiscal years to March 2011.
Chan was paid $10 million by Olympus or entities controlled by Olympus for his role in the fraud, court papers said.
In 2005, he established an entity in the Cayman Islands called SG Bond Plus Fund. Until about 2010, Chan submitted false and misleading documents to Olympus’ outside auditor regarding hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of assets purportedly maintained by Chan at SG Bond for the benefit of Olympus, the complaint said.
Chan had actually transferred the assets to a British Virgin Island-based entity controlled by Olympus, the complaint said.
Chan was interviewed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation on Monday and Tuesday.
An investigative panel report, commissioned by Olympus last year, mentioned a banker referred only by his last name, Chan, as an outside collaborator who first met Olympus executives Yamada and Mori in 1998. At the time “Chan” was working at Commerzbank in Singapore but resigned in 2000. After leaving Societe Generale in 2004, the report said, Chan formed his own company where he continued to work for former Olympus executives.
Olympus declined to comment.
Reporting by Brandon Lowrey; Editing by Steve Orlofsky