Japanese prosecutors have today raided Olympus's Tokyo HQ as they search for evidence of criminal wrongdoing in a u00a31.1 billion financial scandal.

[UPDATE 21 DECEMBER]

Japanese prosecutors have today raided Olympus’s Tokyo HQ as they search for evidence of criminal wrongdoing in a £1.1 billion financial scandal.

In response, Olympus issued a statement confirming that a ‘search and seizure’ operation had begun.

BBC News footage shows a dark-suited team of investigators entering the Olympus building.

The Olympus statement added: ‘The company would like to take this opportunity again to offer sincerely its deepest apologies to shareholders, investors, business partners and other relevant parties for all inconvenience caused.’

The UK’s Serious Fraud Office and the FBI in the US are conducting separate inquiries with the help of former Olympus CEO Michael Woodford who was sacked after alerting the world to a massive accounting cover-up.

Woodford is campaigning to be reinstated as Olympus CEO.

[original 10 December article continues from here]

Police are set to raid the Japanese HQ of scandal-hit camera giant Olympus

?The operations will be conducted jointly by the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office, the Metropolitan Police Department and the Securities and Exchange Surveillance Commission [financial watchdog],? stated the Japanese agency, quoting sources familiar with the matter.

Investigators are also expected to search the homes of people involved in the massive fraud.

Last week an Olympus-commissioned investigation branded as ?rotten to the core? executives responsible for one of the biggest corporate scandals in Japanese history.

It found that Olympus bosses masterminded a £1.1 billion fraud helped by a culture of ?yes-men? who turned a blind eye to the 13-year accounting scandal.

Bosses instigated a complex web of overseas deals to keep massive losses – made on Olympus?s investments – off the company balance sheet, using over-priced acquisitions and funds disguised as financial fees, to pull off the 134.8 billion yen cover-up.

The ?loss separation scheme?, which involved channelling funds overseas to places including the Cayman Islands, is a throwback to 1990s Japan when companies sought to flatter their balance sheets by making losses ?fly away? – a ruse known as Tobashi.

Money flowThe £1.1 billion fraud involved a complex web of transactions to disguise losses made on investments since the 1990s (in the graphic above, released by Olympus this week, ‘ITV’ does not refer to the British TV company)

The report findings prompted Olympus to indicate that its entire board of directors will resign in the coming weeks ? a move that will boost plans by the firm?s whistleblowing former CEO Michael Woodford who is campaigning for his old job back.

Woodford, a Briton, was fired in October after questioning colleagues over the suspicious deals.

At the time, Olympus claimed Woodford was sacked over a clash of management styles.

Olympus’s former vice-president Hisashi Mori and the firm’s ex-auditor Hideo Yamada were the brains behind a scheme that covered up accounting losses dating back to the 1990s, stated the ‘independent’ third-party panel, led by a former Supreme Court judge.

External accountants also came under fire in the report, along with investment banks.

The report called for legal action to be taken against those responsible.

However, the probe found no evidence that the financial malpractice had links to Japan’s notorious ‘yakuza’ criminal underworld, as has been rumoured in the press in recent weeks.

Woodford, who has never stated that he suspects crime gang connections, is helping authorities as part of separate, ongoing, inquires in Japan, the US and the UK.

He is expected to return to Tokyo next week.

Amateur Photographer interview with Michael Woodford HERE

BACKGROUND ARTICLES

Olympus denies camera division shake-up threat

Sacked Olympus boss outlines key to future

Plot thickens as Olympus fires vice president

We have lost customers’ trust, says Olympus president

Olympus is a good business, says sacked CEO

Olympus crisis: Japan PM enters fray

Olympus not aware of ‘FBI’ probe