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Did Olympus get in bed with the Yakuza to hide its losses?

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As if a news story involving the covering up of $1.5 billion dollars and the firing of an outspoken British CEO wasn’t juicy enough, we learnt today that the Japan’s notorious crime syndicates, better known as the yakuza, might just be involved in the Olympus corporate accounting scandal.
As I reported last week, Olympus president Shuichi Takayama recently came out to admit that his company had covered up $1.5 billion in investment losses by acuiquring several firms at very high prices, and then booking impairment losses a year later when those firms’ values plunged, thereby transferring its investment losses into drops in corporate valuations.
However, as the New York Times reports, there is more to the story as the Tokyo police and the prosecutor’s office are now investigating the possibility that the endoscope maker, a key competitor to Canon and Kodak, paid the yakuza exorbitant sums of money to also somehow hide investment losses, which are now suspected to be much higher than the $1.5 billion figure that was previously reported.
“The Olympus case appears to bear all the hallmarks of the sort of financial frauds in which organised crime groups have been involved in the past,” Velisarios Kattoulas of Poseidon Research, a firm advises multinationals on doing business in Japan and other Asian nations, told the Financial Times.
Yes, Japan’s famous for its deferential corporate culture, but beneath that facade lies a bad boy waiting to burst out, and if it turns out to be true, Olympus will not have been the only Japanese firm to have dealings with actual, non-white collar criminals. As Time noted, back in 1997, the chairman of Japan’s then-biggest bank, Dai-Ichi Kangyo, was sent to jail for loaning billions in yen to the yakuza. According to Japan’s Securities and Exchange Surveillance Commission, more than 50 listed companies have alleged yakuza ties.
Kind of puts our very own MF Global scandal in perspective, perhaps?
POSITION:  No positions in stocks mentioned.