TOKYO - An expert panel appointed by Japan's Olympus Corp to look into an accounting scandal at the disgraced firm will release its findings on Tuesday, Kyodo news agency said in a weekend report, opening the way for possible criminal complaints against former company executives.
Olympus has admitted to using murky M&A deals to hide losses on investments stretching back two decades. Its current management has blamed ex-president Tsuyoshi Kikukawa, former executive vice president Hisashi Mori and former internal auditor Hideo Yamada for the scheme and said it was ready to take legal action against those found responsible.
The 92-year-old maker of cameras and endoscopes is battling to remain listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange, but if the panel finds involvement of organized crime syndicates -- as has been speculated -- that outcome would be difficult.
Tokyo police, prosecutors and the Securities and Exchange Surveillance Commission (SESC) have launched a rare joint investigation of the scandal, and are likely to step up their probe after the panel report is released.
Potential criminal charges could include filing false financial statements, fraud and aggravated breach of trust -- an offence that can include embezzlement -- although proving breach of trust could be difficult because of the need to show that the offence had been committed for personal gain.
Olympus also needs to meet a December 14 deadline to file its financial results for the six months to September in order to avoid an automatic delisting.
Former Olympus CEO Michael Woodford, who blew the whistle on accounting tricks at the company after his sacking from the top job in October, has launched a campaign to oust the current board and replace it with his own team of candidates led by him as nominated CEO.
That has set up a battle between Woodford, an Englishman who was a rare foreign CEO in Japan, and current Olympus President Shuichi Takayama, who plans to stay on, at least in the short term, to try to get the company back on track.
The Olympus affair has fanned doubts about corporate governance generally in Japan as well as revived concerns about ties between "yakuza" gangsters and companies.
Attention will also be focused on what the panel, led by a Supreme Court judge, has to say about the role of outsiders in the scandal, including Akio Nakagawa, a banker with lengthy ties to Olympus and whose firm Axes received a mammoth advisory fee in the purchase of U.K. medical equipment maker Gyrus in 2008.
(Reporting by Linda Sieg; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)
Copyright 2011 Thomson Reuters. Click for Restrictions.