Olympus: Will UK fraud investigators act in secret?
November 9, 2011
The UK?s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has said any investigation it launches into alleged financial wrongdoing at Olympus may not be made public.
The SFO has yet to decide whether to launch its own investigation, despite yesterday?s revelations in Japan that the Tokyo-based firm covered up balance sheet losses, using funds from other sources, for decades.
The deepening scandal emerged during the first stages of Olympus?s own inquiries which involve an ?independent? panel of accountants and lawyers.
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.
An SFO spokesperson told Amateur Photographer that a decision on whether to launch an investigation is ?still under review? and that it has yet to compete its ?evidential test?.
Speaking in general terms, the SFO added: ?It?s a long process.. we have to be certain we can convict [in court].?
Before making a decision the SFO?s intelligence team has to sift through any information in receives to ensure it meets its criteria.
?It [the investigation decision] may or may not be made public,? the spokesperson told us.
However, given public interest in the affairs of Olympus, the SFO believes any official inquiry would be publicised.
?The [SFO] director has to make the final decision as to whether we take on a case.?
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.
The SFO spokesperson declined to say what aspect of Olympus’s financial affairs it has been asked to focus on.
Meanwhile, Olympus today declined to comment on reports it hid losses exceeding $1 billion as its share price plummeted further.
Olympus shares have lost more than 70% of their value since the scandal broke on 14 October, the day Woodford was dismissed and told to catch a bus to the airport.
The SFO said that investigations can take 18 months before reaching court.
The FBI has yet to return our calls seeking confirmation that the US crime agency has launched its own investigation, as has been reported.