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SECTIONS / DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY

Missing Olympus Billions Linked To Japanese Mafia

By David Richards | Sunday | 20/11/2011

Investigators claim that executives from digital camera and medical supply Company Olympus are being questioned about the disappearance of up to $4.9 Billion in funds which they believe went into Companies linked to organised crime gangs.

The New York Times said that a memo prepared by investigators and circulated at a recent meeting of officials from Japan's Securities and Exchange Surveillance Commission, the Tokyo prosecutor's office and the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department, officials indicates that they are trying to determine whether Olympus worked with organised crime syndicates to obscure billions of dollars in past investment losses and then paid them exorbitant sums for their services.

The memo — a copy of which was obtained by The New York Times from a person close to the official investigation — appears to link the Olympus losses for the first time to organized crime groups.

It also suggests that investigators believe illicit payouts from Olympus went far beyond the roughly $1.4 billion in merger fees and acquisition payments that have come under recent scrutiny, potentially making it one of the biggest scandals in Japanese corporate history.

The scandal at Olympus was first exposed when Michael Woodford, Olympus's ex-chief executive, was fired after raising questions about the disappearance of money in the Company. Senior Japanese executives working for the Company went out of their way to try and discredit Woodford, a Brit when he raised questions about the past performance of Olympus Japanese executives.

According to the investigators' memo, Olympus made payments amounting to many times the losses it sought to hide, and investigators suspect much of the additional money went to crime groups.

Olympus paid a total of 481 billion yen, or $6.25 billion, through questionable acquisition payments, investments and advisory fees from 2000 to 2009, according to the memo, but only 105 billion yen has been written down or otherwise accounted for in its financial statements. That leaves 376 billion yen, or $4.9 billion, unaccounted for, according to the memo.

The memo says investigators believe that over half of that amount has been channeled to organized crime syndicates, including the country's largest, the Yamaguchi Gumi.

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