Ex-Olympus execs given suspended terms over investment loss coverup

The Tokyo District Court on Wednesday found three former executives of Olympus Corp. guilty of covering up the medical equipment and digital camera maker's massive investment losses and gave them suspended prison terms.

Former Olympus Chairman Tsuyoshi Kikukawa, 72, and Hideo Yamada, 68, a former standing auditor of the company, were sentenced to three years in prison, suspended for five years. Former Vice President Hisashi Mori, 56, was given a 30-month prison term, suspended for four years.

Presiding Judge Hiroaki Saito also fined Olympus 700 million yen.

The financial scandal came to light in October 2011 when then Olympus President Michael Woodford, a British national, blew the whistle on dubious accounting related to the Japanese manufacturer's corporate acquisitions.

All three former executives had pleaded guilty to falsifying financial statements for fiscal years 2006 to 2010 by overstating the company's net assets by 41.6 billion yen to 117.8 billion yen in order to cover up investment losses.

Prosecutors had sought penalties of up to five years in prison for the three former executives and a fine of 1 billion yen for the company, saying the loss concealment was "a systematically premeditated crime" led by successive Olympus chiefs including Kikukawa and carried out by Yamada and Mori.

They had also said the scandal "severely damaged trust in securities markets both in Japan and abroad."

Kikukawa said in the trial he could not disclose the massive investment losses for fear the company could go bankrupt.

Defense lawyers of the three former executives had sought suspended sentences, saying the decision to conceal the massive losses was made by previous Olympus presidents.