Ex-Olympus head Woodford to meet Japan investigators

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The ousted chief of scandal-hit Olympus, Michael Woodford, on Thursday began meeting Japanese investigators over a cover-up of huge investment losses dating back to the 1990s, pledging the truth would out.

The Briton is in Japan for the first time since Olympus abruptly stripped him of his title on October 14, only six months after appointing him its first ever non-Japanese president and two weeks after he was also named chief executive.

Woodford, who blew the whistle on the scandal at the camera and medical equipment maker, held talks with prosecutors in Tokyo, where a special white collar crime unit is examining the matter.

"I have several files I wish to give them," he told reporters as he arrived at the Ministry of Justice to discuss Olympus' overpayments in a series of acquisition deals that have also led to probes by British and US authorities.

"I want to provide information, and have dialogue," said Woodford, who was also due to meet Tokyo police and government regulators before addressing the international press.

Olympus said at the time that Woodford was ousted because of cultural differences -- despite his 30-year career with the group.

But Woodford has contended that he was sacked because he questioned the acquisitions and enormous fees paid to little-known consultants based in the Cayman Islands, and because of his calls on the then chairman to resign.

Olympus originally defended its past deals, only to eventually admit that it funnelled funds through the corporate purchases to cover up losses it made on bad investments during the 1990s.

Local media have reported that the losses may total more than 100 billion yen ($1.3 billion). But the company has yet to disclose details, citing a probe by an outside panel commissioned by its board.

Woodford -- who major shareholders and retired employees have called to be reinstated -- plans to attend the company board meeting Friday to push for a deeper investigation into the mismanagement.

"I am not afraid of challenging my board members as to what has happened," Woodford -- who remains on Olympus' board -- told a news conference in London on Monday.

"I want the truth to come out. I am encouraged that so many people in Japan really understand and care for this issue," he said at the time.

Britain's Serious Fraud Office has also launched an investigation, along with those under way by Japanese and other international agencies amid media speculation that Yakuza crime syndicates may be involved.

After his meetings in Japan, Woodford will travel to the United States for talks with investigators there.

"Olympus' story has many tentacles. It's like an octopus. And for Olympus to move forward, all these tentacles should be examined and questioned," he said upon arriving at Narita airport Wednesday evening.

Olympus' actions have prompted a massive sell-off of its shares, which had lost 80 percent of their value at one point after Woodford was demoted.

But the shares have rebounded in recent trade, with Woodford saying he did not wish the company to be delisted and called for a new management team to be put in place.

The shares shot up 17.3 percent, or 150 yen, Thursday to close at 1,019 yen -- roughly 41 percent of its value before Woodford was removed.

Its stock has been placed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange's watch list for possible delisting.

The company will be removed from the index if it fails to report its earnings by December 14 -- a move that would effectively wipe out the value of its shares and could trigger investor lawsuits.

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