Serious Fraud Office drops charges against camera-maker Olympus

Dog Detective

The Serious Fraud Office has dropped fraud charges against Japanese camera-maker Olympus and its UK subsidiary Gyrus Group relating to an accounting scandal four years ago.

The move follows an appeal court ruling in February which found that companies cannot be held criminally responsible for misleading their own auditors under English law.

The SFO stressed it has been unable to bring prosecutions against individuals in the Olympus case because Japan does not extradite its nationals.

The Japanese group and its Gyrus unit were charged by the SFO two years ago in relation to audits for 2010 and 2011. The UK charges followed revelations of a $1.7bn (£1.1bn) accounting scandal at the Japanese firm, which have since resulted in fines and prosecutions in Tokyo.

But on Tuesday a British judge ended proceedings against Olympus and Gyrus after the SFO told the court it would not offer evidence, according to Bloomberg.

The failed Olympus case is a blow for the SFO’s director, David Green, who has made clear he wants to hold corporations directly to account for criminal conduct where appropriate.

In an interview with the Guardian two years ago, he said: “The way companies work today, the email chain tends to get rather sparse among very senior managers … But if a [company] has gained from dishonesty, why should it be able to chuck a few mid-ranking people overboard and sail onwards?”

The Olympus scandal emerged in 2011 when its then chief executive, Michael Woodford, turned whistleblower over an alleged $1.7bn accounting fraud he said had taken place over 13 years. Green said he had discovered it two weeks after taking the top job, and took his findings to the SFO in London.

After allegations of missing money surfaced, the company’s share price fell 82% in a month. Olympus has since been fined 700m yen (£3.77m) in Japan and three executives pleaded guilty in 2013 to covering up losses at the maker of endoscopes and cameras.

A lawyer for Olympus told Bloomberg the company was planning to make a statement to the market in Japanese trading hours on Wednesday.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Simon Bowers, for theguardian.com on Tuesday 10th November 2015 13.57 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010

 

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