The UK’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has confirmed that it has launched an official investigation into alleged financial wrongdoing at Olympus.
The SFO said in a statement this morning: ‘We can confirm we have opened an inquiry into Olympus and are liaising with other organisations and international colleagues following information given to us by the Olympus CEO.’
Olympus Japan declined to comment on the SFO’s announcement when contacted by Amateur Photographer (AP).
Former CEO Michael Woodford (pictured), who said he was sacked after quizzing colleagues over high fees paid to advisers, handed a dossier to the SFO last month, urging investigators to act.
Meanwhile, Olympus officials in Tokyo have yet to confirm whether the FBI has contacted the firm, following reports that the US agency has also launched a probe into the affairs of the company which last week admitted covering up losses in its accounts for decades.
Olympus spokesman Ayako Nagami told Amateur Photographer (AP) today: ‘Our policy is not to issue announcements, nor make comments about the presence and/or progress of any official investigation by authorities.’
Nagami added: ‘However, if any official investigation requests information from Olympus, we are ready to provide our full cooperation.’
The FBI has yet to return our calls.
Woodford spoke out after it was revealed Olympus had paid nearly $700m to financial advisers concerning the takeover of British medical equipment firm Gyrus in 2008.
Last week an SFO spokesperson declined to tell AP what aspect of Olympus’s financial affairs it has been asked to focus on.
Olympus shares lost more than 70% of their value after the scandal broke on 14 October, the day Woodford was dismissed and told to catch a bus to the airport.
The SFO told AP that its investigations can take 18 months before reaching court.
Earlier this week, a petition calling for Woodford to be reinstated to the crisis-hit firm reported a ?larger than expected response?.
In the online appeal, addressed to ?all Olympus employees? Koji Miyata, former president of Olympus Medical Systems Corporation, wrote: ?The events of the past few weeks have cast doubt on Olympus?s survivability as an independent enterprise.?
The petition, which appears on the Olympus Grassroots website, calls on staff to back Woodford?s return as president of the company.
Miyata said it was Woodford?s role in exposing financial irregularities at the firm that led to his dismissal last month. ?Olympus has been undertaking inexplicable corporate acquisitions for some 20 years to disguise huge losses on speculative investments, and Michael had discovered that misbehaviour and had called for the resignations of the senior executives responsible.’