Yakuza cast shadow over Olympus affair
As one of Japan’s biggest corporate dramas in years, the furore surrounding optical equipment maker Olympus already boasts a rich cast of characters including a disgraced chairman, the British president he fired and a hapless successor struggling to clean up the mess.
But some observers wonder whether shadier players - Japan’s notorious yakuza crime syndicates - may also have a role in the scandal.
“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,” says Velisarios Kattoulas of Poseidon Research, which advises multinationals on doing business in Japan and other Asian nations.
Mr Kattoulas says people his firm has spoken to on the fringes of organised crime are concerned whether one of Japan’s most powerful yakuza groups was involved.
Facta - the Japanese magazine that uncovered the more than $1bn in suspect payments connected with the acquisitions - in October highlighted possible involvement in the scandal of a company suspected of having a relationship with “antisocial forces”, a euphemism used in Japan for the yakuza.
Olympus’s new president, Shuichi Takayama, has waved aside such suggestions, although he has been forced to reverse earlier denials and admit that former chairman Tsuyoshi Kikukawa and other executives used a string of corporate acquisitions to cover up hidden losses dating from the 1990s.
Asked by journalists on October 26th about the possibility of involvement by “antisocial forces” in the scandal, Mr Takayama said, “I absolutely do not recognise this”.
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