Fear of delay over Olympus probe in UK

BRITAIN faces a legal battle of more than a year if it tries to force Japanese executives of Olympus to go on trial in this country.

The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has opened an investigation into payments made by the camera firm and is working with the FBI and the US government, City A.M. understands.

It faces a series of potential hurdles, however, because of the lack of an extradition treaty with Japan covering financial crimes.

The SFO, which declined to comment, has met Michael Woodford, who was ousted as chief executive of Olympus after querying payments of more than $1bn (£633m) to advisors.

It is understood that a $620m payment, allegedly made by the British arm of Olympus to Axam Investments, which is based in the Caymen Islands, will be central to the SFO investigation as it looks for evidence of wrongdoing that comes under its own jurisdiction.

Woodford told City A.M. he welcomed the move by the SFO. “They have the mechanism and the authority to follow the money.”

Payments made by Olympus in Britain would come under the remit of the SFO, he added.

It has also emerged that Olympus is preparing to take legal action, including possible criminal suits, against any executives found responsible for the accounting scandal, according to an internal staff email from new president Shuichi Takayama.