Prosecutors raid Olympus' Tokyo HQ

Olympus standJapanese prosecutors have raided the headquarters of Olympus, amid an investigation into dubious accounting and a cover-up of massive losses at the camera giant.

Dark-suited officials were shown marching solemnly into the central Tokyo office building in the raid, which was also shown on national television. Japan's NHK TV said the home of a former executive was also raided.
Olympus said it could not comment on an ongoing investigation.

The deception at Olympus dates back to the 1990s and involved an elaborate scheme to hide 117.7 billion yen (£960 million) in investment losses.

It came to light only in October when then president, Briton Michael Woodford - a rare foreigner to head a major Japanese company - blew the whistle on what he thought was strange and excessive spending.

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

Mr Woodford was sacked after he confronted the company's board of directors with his doubts. In recent weeks, he has been trying to stage a comeback to the top, by appealing to shareholders, employees and others that his return will work to clean up Olympus.

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 battle over who will lead the camera and medical equipment maker and its 40,000 employees could come to a head at the next shareholders' meeting. A date has not been set.
© 2011 Press Association
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